Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The New Light Prize

The New Light Prize Exhibition is coming to London next month. In a time when we seem to see art competition with major prizes (£10,000 or more) dropping like flies, it's great to see an art competition which has a very precise focus - and still has a £10,000 prize.

The common thread through all we do is a deep belief that the visual arts matter and the North of England deserves to be celebrated.

What is the New Light Prize?

The New Light Prize is a biennial art exhibition:

  • It was established in 2010 to celebrate and promote Northern art - and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020
  • In the last decade it's become one of the UK's largest open exhibitions of contemporary art, showcasing well-known and emerging artists.
  • The exhibition tours art galleries in the UK - with a focus on the north
  • You can see the artworks selected for the 2020-21 exhibition on the website. It's always interesting to see what's sold. I'll maybe do an analysis when the exhibition comes south and I've actually seen it....

The Prizes

  • £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award – open to all artists over the age of 18 with a connection to the North of England, whether through birth, degree level study or residence.
  • £2,500 Patron’s Choice Award – this award will be presented by our patron on the night of the Private View; all exhibited works will be considered.
  • Saul Hay Emerging Artists Prize offering mentoring, professional advice and exhibition opportunities.
  • Zillah Bell Printmakers’ Prize – all forms of original printmaking are eligible for this prize, the winner of which will be offered a solo exhibition in the Zillah Bell Gallery in Thirsk, which plays host to some of the best printmakers’ shows in the country.
  • The tig Visitors’ Choice Award – where visitors will be asked to vote for their favourite work in the Prize Exhibition.
  • New Light Purchase Prize – the winner’s work will be purchased by New Light to add to the New Light Collection.
Artists awarded a prize will be asked to provide original evidence of how they meet the entry criteria.

The Judges for the 2020 Prize were 

  • Sam Phillips is a London-based arts writer and editor. He is the editor of RA Magazine, published by the Royal Academy of Arts.
  • Anne Desmet RA - a world renowned wood engraver who was born and brought up in Liverpool.
  • Grant Scanlan - from the Lake District and now responsible for the management and programming of Huddersfield Art Gallery
  • Annette Petchey lives in the North and is a lover of art and, in a small way, a collector.

How is "the North defined?"

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Review: Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition 2021

Yesterday I visited the Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries - the 58th Annual Exhibition of the SWLA.

The exhibition showcases the very best of art inspired by the natural world and includes drawings, paintings, original prints and sculptures from both members and non members of the Society.

It opened last week (but I was at an Online Conference for four days and Monday was the earliest I could make it) and continues in all three galleries until 1pm on the 24th October. Otherwise it's back to normal opening hours - 10am to 5pm.

The end wall of the West Gallery - with paintings by Andrew Haslen SWLA

If you aspire to exhibit in this exhibition, it's ESSENTIAL that you see the very high standard of artwork included in the exhibition - by both members of the Society of Wildlife Artists and those selected from the Open Entry (see Call for Entries: Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition 2021)

If, like me, you're still being very careful re social contacts, then it's nice to know that the galleries are large and there's lots of space for those attending - and everybody wears a mask!

If you can't get to see it right now, I've uploaded my photos of every wall of the exhibition to three Facebook Albums - so you can see what you're missing!

You can also 
  • view the President's tour of the exhibition (above)
  • view the exhibition in 3D Online. Matterport still have not resolved the hyper-brightness of images in the Wet and East Gallery - although views of artwork in the North Gallery are much closer to reality. I think the quantity of white walls is overwhelming the 3D software!
  • see all the artworks on exhibition via the Mall Galleries website - although you see them in isolation and not within the context of something that provides insight as to size (apart from the dimensions of course!)

This post about The Natural Eye exhibition, on the SWLA website, introduces particular features of the artwork and how/why it was developed. Much kudos to the Society for actually having a commentary on their own exhibition on their own website before the exhibition opened! I've grown tired of there being rather too many Societies which are far too slow in updating their websites to provide complementary marketing of the exhibition - and the artwork of their artist members!


I'm pleased that more people are going to get to see the show this year. I saw it last year - but many people didn't travel (including many members) and the ravages of 'you know what' meant it closed early (see  SWLA's new website and annual exhibition closing early).

I'm afraid, exhibition views are now more limited for me. I always used to walk round exhibitions three times - but now I have to be careful how many steps I take before my bone on bone ankle seizes up! (see Ever so slightly distracted - from a year ago!) Plus I get very tired.... Which is partly why I now take more photos - to remind myself of what I've seen.

That said, I do jot notes and this is my take on the exhibition overall
  • the quality of work generally is very good - with some work being excellent
  • there's a huge variation in style and media used for the drawings, paintings fine art prints and sculpture on display
Some smaller works - fine art prints and sculpture in the North Gallery

  • the Hang seems different this year - with more themes and series apparent on the walls. I queried this with Harriet Mead, President of the SWLA and this year there was a different hanging team - and Harriet got involved too! The most difficult wall to hangs the end wall in the West Gallery - because it's seen from afar by everybody entering the gallery - and MUST be interesting,. This year it was almost "off the wall" with colour! (see image at top)

Screen prints of birds by Robert Gillor PPSWLA MBE
  • I thought I saw rather fewer fine art prints - which saddened me as I always enjoy seeing the prints in this show. I think it's because one member chose to do oil paintings rather than prints and another chose to do rather smaller artworks as prints compared to previous years. That said, there are some extremely affordable unframed prints to be had - so much so that I think buying groups of prints would be the best approach!
  • Part of the exhibition have a strong maritime theme
Maritime themes involving wildlife - in the East Gallery

Paintings of urban foxes and other wild life by John Dobbs SWLA
and sculpture of Wild dogs by Nick Mackman SWLA

It's also worth remembering that its' not coincidental that the name of this annual exhibition is "The Natural Eye"
  • I always used to think this was a play on visual art and nature. 
  • I'm now more convinced than ever that's just as much about the emphasis which the SWLA places on artwork conceived, started and sometimes developed to completion while observing wildlife "in the field / sea / air"
Impressionistic drawings, paintings and sculpture - from observation - in the East Gallery 

SWLA are not looking for photorealistic artworks. They're looking for artists who OBSERVE wildlife - in the raw and in its natural habitat! Indeed I'd go so far to say, with some degree of certainty, that being very photorealistic might mean an artwork in the open entry might get passed over pretty quickly.....

The Natural Eye Drawing Bursary

I wrote about how to apply for this bursary back in April - see The Natural Eye Bursary 2021 - Call for Entries

The North Gallery has a display of the sketchbooks and drawings produced by previous bursary winners. It's a good platform for getting noticed - if you produce good work.

The Natural Eye Drawing Bursary

The Natural Eye 2021 Prizes & Awards 2021

You can read about the prizewinners on this page.

The Birdwatch and Swarovski Optik Artist of the Year Award

A prize of an ATS 80 HD spotting scope with 25-50x zoom eyepiece (with a value of £2,430), plus subscription to BirdGuides/Birdwatch

Across the bay by Liz Myhill

Across the bay by Liz Myhill

Liz Myhill is a Scottish artist and a native of the Isle of Skye in Scotland
....whose observational works span a wide range of subject matter, gathered through working directly from life. The act of walking, watching and recording numerous facets, whether fleeting or through lengthy study, allow her to gain a connection and sense of place. Although often an end in themselves, these field works are also developed into paintings and printmaking.
Liz exhibits her work throughout the UK, regularly showing with societies such as the Royal Scottish Academy, Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour and Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts. She has also received a number of awards.

The BIRDscapes Gallery 'Conservation through Art' Award

Steve and Liz Harris have decided to increase the prize fund for this year to £1,000.

The Decline of Eels by Julia Manning SWLA

This is a simply STUNNING series of images of the life cycle of the eel on its travels - with some very cautionary tales of what can happen to the eel en route. (You can see a number of pics of this series in my East Gallery album)

The Decline of Eeels by Julia Manning SWLA
I started this project in response to being part of a funded project for The Somerset Wildlife Trust, called The Somerset Brilliant Coastline. Quite by chance, last September, Andy Don, an International Eel Expert came to my studio to buy another print for his collection. Over a cup of coffee he told me about what he did for a living and how eels had declined in the last 40 years and especially here in Somerset. This was a perfect subject for me to explore for this project.
I wanted to make people from Somerset and further afield aware of what we could be losing, by impediments to eel migration, such as weirs and other man-made structures, also the mortality caused by being drawn into lethal intakes such as pumping stations, hydropower plants and nuclear power stations.
This PDF file provides an explanation (at another exhibition)
  • how the series came about
  • all the individual pieces in the series
Julia Manning is an artist and printmaker based in Somerset. She studied fine art at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham and "for over 40 years I have earned a living with a paint brush!" She's a member of The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Somerset Printmakers, The Society of Wildlife Artists and of The Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.

This is the background to the award
The Conservation through Art Award, sponsored by The BIRDscapes Gallery, acknowledges an artist’s efforts in using their art to help conserve the natural world. It also directly benefits wildlife by the prize money being shared equally between the artist and a nature conservation body of the artist’s choosing. This year’s Award goes to an exceptionally deserving candidate.

Her powerful body of work is both visually exciting and dynamic, leading the viewer to look more closely at what is portrayed. Her thought-provoking commentary on the plight of a threatened British species and its environment, is a huge conservation message contained within the appealing images of a skilled printmaker.

RSPB Award

Smew sailing through by Ben Woodhams SWLA

Smew sailing through by Ben Woodhams SWLA

Ben Woodhams
is an English artist and illustrator currently living and working on the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. His practice is founded in direct observation and he specialises in birds, working primarily in watercolour.

Larson-Juhl Award

To celebrate drawing or dry media, draughtsmanship and capturing ideas as an art form, £500 worth of Larson-Juhl materials to the winner and a feature in their '4Walls' magazine

All works by Tianyin Wang

Three large charcoal drawings by Tianyin Wang - the shoal of fish and the two birds.

Tianyin Wang is an artist working primarily in charcoal drawing.

Born in 1986, he is currently based in London, UK. He graduated with a BA (Illustration) from Arts University Bournemouth in 2009. Between 2009-2015 he worked as a digital-based editorial illustrator. From 2015, Tianyin started to develop his unique charcoal drawing technique using a combination of different charcoals to achieve a distinctive look. 
You can follow him on Instagram

Dry Red Press Award

The winning work reproduced as a greetings card

Great Crested Grebes with Yellow Water Lilies and Banded Demoiselles by Brin Edwards SWLA

Great Crested Grebes with Yellow Water Lilies and Banded Demoiselles 
by Brin Edwards SWLA

Brin Edwards works from his straw bale studio in Assington near Sudbury in the heart of rural Suffolk. He has been a member of the SWLA since 2005 and has served on SWLA Council for many years

Panorama of the exhibition in the West Gallery

REFERENCE: Society of Wildlife Artists

My blog posts include:

2016 - Review - Society of Wildlife Artists 53rd Annual Exhibition
2015 - Review: Society of Wildlife Artist's 52nd Annual Exhibition (2015)
2014 - Video: 2014 Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
2013 - Review: 50th Annual Exhibition - Society of Wildlife Artists
2013 - If you want a lot of people at the Private View......
2013 - Society of Wildlife Artists - a new book and a bursary
2012 - Review: 49th Annual Exhibition - Society of Wildlife Artists
2011 - Review: Society of Wildlife Artists - Annual Exhibition
2009 - Society of Wildlife Artists - Annual Exhibition 2009
2008 - 45th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists
2007 - Society of Wildlife Artists at the new Mall Galleries

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Review: Episode 1 of Portrait Artist of the Year Series 8 (Autumn 2021)

Portrait Artist of the Year returned to our screens last night for Series 8. This is the first of my reviews of every episode, semi-final and final and the commission over the next 10 weeks or so.

Title caption for Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2021 (Series 8)

We learned that the £10,000 commission this year will be to paint Nicola Benedetti - a Scottish-Italian classical solo violinist who won BBC Young Musician of the Year when she was 16 and is now one of the most sought after violinists of her generation - for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

I think I might have guessed where they might be holding the Final if it's not at Battersea Art Centre!

This is the link to Episode 1 on Sky Arts. It is being broadcast every Wednesday evening at 8pm on Sky Arts Channel - which is available via Sky, Now TV and Freeview.

View of the pod structure inside Battersea Arts Centre

For more about how this art competition works see yesterday's post How Portrait Artist of the Year actually works in practice

The Artists

The artists on their "pic of the artists photocall" outside Battersea Arts Centre

They've not yet got the Artists Profiles upper Series 8 Episode 1 on the usual page - which also usually provides you with a speeded up version of their heat painting. I guess they're processing that and it might appear later today?

The distinction between Professional and Amateur is self-identification and - as always - it's debatable whether some are in the right category.

The order below is alphabetical - not as they appeared on the programme.

The Professionals

There were four professional artists
  • Shane Berkery (Website | Instagram) - an Irish-Japanese contemporary artist based in Dublin, Ireland. His cultural background has been a major influence on his work and is a frequent theme in his paintings. Berkery primarily works out of his studio in Dublin and is represented by The Molesworth Gallery.
  • Alicia France (Website | Instagram) - Her home town is Rochdale and she is now based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She studied Art for a degree. She is a British artist who won the Portrait/Figure Category Award in the Jackson's Open Painting Prize 2018 (see interview). Paints on aluminium. You can see her "Self-Portrait in Green velvet" on her website.
  • Araminta Lawrie (Website | Instagram) - lives in Hampshire creating figurative paintings and classical portraiture with a contemporary twist. Did an Art History Degree at Nottingham University (2010-2013), followed by a Masters at Sotheby's Institute/Manchester University (2013-4). She has also studied at studied at Sarum Studio, Charles Cecil Studio (summer school), London Fine Art Studios, The Art Academy and Heatherley’s School of Art. Works in Public Relations.
  • Tedi Lena - (Instagram) - (b.1996) Graduated with a BA (Hons) degree from the Sir John Cass School of Architecture and Design at the London Metropolitan University. In addition to his university studies, Lena attended short courses at Hampstead School of Art and the Royal Academy of Arts. He painted a portrait of Frank Bowling which was selected for the BP portrait Award in 2019. He came with a signer as he is deaf. It worked very well I thought. Good to see people with disabilities on a programme like this. A number of you will recognise some of his portraits in this video about him

The Amateurs

There were five amateur artists
  • Nicola Cummings (LinkedIn) Lives in London - is Head of Art at Queens Park Community School. Looked very familiar to me but  I couldn't work out / remember why. She really likes Gabrielle who she got as a model.
Experienced Head Of Art with a demonstrated history of working in the secondary education industry. Skilled in Drawing, Contemporary Art, Art Education, Visual Arts, and Painting. Strong arts and design professional with a Bachelor's degree focused in Fine and Studio Arts from Wimbledon School of Art.
  • Joseph Dupre (Website | Instagram) - he's a a UK based artist and doctor. Splitting his time equally between these two passions.   Draws, prints and sculpts. Won the Art Scholarship to Dulwich College for a remarkable series of closely observed portraits in line. Has studied at the Royal Drawing School and has exhibited in various competitive open exhibitions. BUT he's a doctor 2007-2013 - Manchester School of Medicine, MBChB; 2011 - Humanitarian and Conflict Resolution Institute, MA; 2016-2019 - Specialist Medical GP Qualification, MRCGP (I like his bird mobiles!). He did a monoprint for the Heat.
  • Kat Hughes (Facebook) - Her self-portrait took 40 hours to complete. Needs to get her online presence sorted!
  • Tony Robinson (Website | Facebook | Instagram) - born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK and now lives in Wexford in Ireland. Completed a Fine Art Foundation course there. Graduating with a fine art degree at Stoke-on-Trent he moved to Ireland, working for a time as a mural painter and sign-writer. Founder of plein air festival, Art in the Open (2008), based around Wexford, Ireland. He paints plein air a lot and doesn't normally have the luxury of four hours to complete a painting.
  • Denni Waterhouse [Instagram] - Has loved art from a very early age, qualifying in the subject at both GCSE and A-level. Currently in her third year at the University of Art in London. Comes from Grimsby and her local paper wrote about her before the programme.

The Self Portraits

Self Portraits Wall

Most of the self portraits generally seemed to me to be a bit smaller than usual when viewed as a group.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

How Portrait Artist of the Year actually works in practice

I was looking back at my previous posts and noticed how much of the Episode 1 post I've done for every series of Portrait Artist of the Year I've reviewed was taken up with explaining how this competitions works - so this year I've decided to do a preliminary post!

This looks at how it all works - in principle and what it's really like in practice! Those inspired by the programme to apply for the series next year 

Plus this is your countdown reminder that the programme starts in a few hours at 8pm on Wednesday 13th October!

Bottom line - it's classic cold dark evening in Autumn viewing!

How this competition works - in principle

Major fans can skip this but - but for the new to the programme - this is how it works.

The programme / series

  • The Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year competition is now one of the most important art competitions in the UK since the demise of a number of the other art competitions with significant prizes
  • It has been running for several years and this is the eighth series
  • The winner gets a major prize - a commission worth £10,000 - to paint the portrait of a major celebrity.
  • There are three well known sitters for each heat. Sitters are young and older "celebrities" of varying degrees of recognition - as in I don't recognise a number of the names this year. You'll do better than me if you've caught up with all the series on Sky and Netflix!
  • The series is very popular with lots of aspiring portrait artists of various ages - not least because it offers the opportunity for an enhanced profile i.e. it helps marketing if nothing else - so long as you acquit yourself well!
  • It also attracts artists who already have an established careers as artists and in some cases are well known and collectable portrait artists. Interestingly a number of more established artists shy away from it because they can't cope with the constraints - see below......

Portrait Artist of the Year is 

  • commissioned by Sky TV UK 
  • made by Storyvault Films an independent production company.
  • broadcast every Autumn - generally starting in October - by Sky Arts Channel on digital television (now also on Freeview) and via the NOW TV app.

The Judges

The judges include leading figures in the art world - who are the same as for previous series:
  • award-winning portrait painter Tai Shan SchierenbergHe studied at St. Martin's School of Art and at The Slade. He lives and works in London, Norfolk and the Black Forest in Germany and has artwork in a number of important national and regional public collections
  • independent curator, art historian and arts broadcaster Kathleen Soriano worked in museums and galleries for over 30 years. Currently Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Liverpool Biennial, Trustee of Art UK and was previously Director of Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts and Head of Exhibitions & Collections at the National Portrait Gallery.
  • arts broadcaster, curator, mentor and writer Kate Bryan is also currently Head of Collections for Soho House. In 2020 she started to present a new series for Sky Arts exploring exhibitions across the U.K called 'Inside Arts'. She is also the author of:
#AD NOTE: I am an Amazon affiliate and links to the above books include link to my personal affiliate account. This means that if you buy a book as a result of clicking on one of these links I earn a very small sum. (Income earned in this way helps me finance this blog).

How each episode works

Each episode has three sitters and nine artists (three per sitter), three judges and two presenters.

The interior of Battersea Arts Centre - with one of the segments and easels and kit set-up
  • Heats are now held at Battersea Arts Centre - and, in normal times, you can view the programmes being made - as I have done.
  • Each of the three artists is seated in one of three sections of a rotunda type frame (think three segments of a pie or cake). There's no choice as to who paints which sitter - and no choice as to what angle you get on the sitter
  • Artists have - in theory - four hours to complete a portrait working from a live model - with a break in the middle of the day.
  • None of the artists know who their sitter will is until they arrive in the room. (TADAAA!)
  • Filming generally takes place in April.

What it's really like in practice

Reality is never quite what it looks like on screen
, so I've made a point over the years I've been reviewing this series (I was a latecomer!) of:
  • searching for blog posts by those taking part and 
  • asking people I met who participated what it was really like.  
Plus when I could be present I've photographed the reality - which, of course, is very different to what it looks like on screen.

For example, this is my album of photos of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2019 FINAL
This is what the Final actually looks like in the room where it is filmed - and this is what the artists have to contend with on top of painting a portrait live in four hours!
I've been writing about how the programme works in reality and relaying tips and insight from participants in previous posts. (You can read through them all below!)

Here are some of the more important ones

Monday, October 11, 2021

Call for Entries - Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition 2022

Next March, The Royal Society of British Artists will be having their Annual Exhibition - and they'd like you to enter your art! 

This post is about their Call for Entries

  • Entries opened today Monday 11th October 2021
  • The deadline for entries is Friday 10 December 2021 - by 12 noon
  • For full terms and conditions, click here.
and covers
  • the exhibition in 2022
  • cash prizes and awards
  • who can enter
  • what you can enter
  • how to enter

The Royal Society of British Artists invites painters, sculptors and printmakers to submit their work for consideration to be shown in the Society’s Annual Exhibition 2022. As well as skill and draughtsmanship, they will be looking for originality and creativity.

RBA Annual Exhibition 2022

The exhibition is being held at the Mall Galleries - between Buckingham Palace an Trafalgar Square - and 
  • opens on Thursday 3 March, 10am to 5pm before 
  • closing on Saturday 12 March, 5pm
It's a large exhibition which is normally held over all three galleries.

I very much recommend aspiring artists have a go at this one. 
  • If an artist's artwork is good, he or she has have a decent chance of getting selected compared to some other open exhibitions and art competitions. 
  • There's a tremendous variety of artwork on display in terms of subject matter, style and media used. 
Note that in 2020, I commented that the exhibition was worth visiting because....
  • the fine art prints - which are simply STUNNING. This exhibition is worth visiting just for the prints alone!
  • the 3d work and sculpture which is numerous and very varied. The range of media and diversity of approaches is amazing. 
  • The diversity of styles and media used for drawings and paintings. While some is still traditional, the diversity of styles mean that this exhibition has well and truly lost the air of "fuddy duddy" which it had in 2012.
  • the hang which is excellent - a huge exhibition remains accessible (apart from the labels - see the end). I very much appreciated the theming of different works - the still life at the entrance, the trees in two different places within the exhibition etc.
  • the size of the exhibition. They've selected 500 works in total - of which 20 relate to their RBA Star Students. Some of the paintings are hung in 3 rows - but they can cope with it as all remain accessible
Some of the prints in the RBA Annual Exhibition 2021


Cash Prizes & Other Awards

This year's exhibition had some extremely impressive artworks which won prizes. This a link to the artworks which won prizes and awards at the Annual Exhibition in 2021.

A variety of Prizes and Awards are on offer. The total prize pot is worth over £5,000
These include (subject to final confirmation):

Cash Prizes

  • The de Laszlo Foundation Prize: The de Laszlo Medal for Excellence and £1,500 will be awarded for the best artwork from life by an artist aged 35 or under
  • The John Lynn Commemorative Award for a Young Artist: £500
  • The Surgeon's Prize: £500
  • The Peter Kelly Commemorative Prize: £300
  • The Ronald Morgan Memorial Award: £250
  • The Gordon Hulson Memorial Prize: £250 for draughtsmanship, variety & exploration
  • The Stuart Southall Print Prize: £250
  • Nathan David Award for Sculpture: £150
  • The Geoffrey Vivis Memorial Award: £100

Publication Awards

  • The Artist Magazine Award: The winner will be interviewed in The Artist magazine, print and digital editions
  • The Dry Red Press Award: The winning work will be published as a greeting card in the Dry Red Press 'Prize Winners' range, with royalties from the sale of the cards going to the artist

Art Materials & Other Awards

  • The Winsor & Newton Painting Award: Art materials to the value of £500
  • The Michael Harding Awards: Two awards of 
    • £500 worth of Michael Harding art materials, and 
    • 10 painting starter sets
  • Hahnemuhle Fine Art UK Award: A prize of artist paper, worth £250
  • Frinton Frames Award: £200 of picture framing at Frinton Frames bespoke handfinished picture frame makers

Submitting an Entry