Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Episode 6 of Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

Announcement of the shortlist for Heat 6
This is a review of Episode 6 of Portrait Artist of the Year by Sky Arts - with added extras about the artists not included in the programme!

You can find links to my previous reviews of the first five episodes at the end of this post.

The Professionals

Last week an amateur artist won. So the five professional artists trying to make sure they look better than the amateurs this week are:
  • Marcus Callum (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - Born in Scotland in 1967 and now based in York. Originally a computer programmer, he trained as an artist in New York and Sydney and spent 20 years in Australia before returning to the UK. He hads a major interest in classical realism and he's been a former finalist (three times) in the Archibald Prize (something they didn't mention on the programme) and a finalist (three times) in the Art Renewal Center International Salon (again not mentioned). He is now a professional artist working primarily as a painter but also working in digital media. He has a section on his website about the Sky Portrait Artist of the Year competition. It includes some of his four hour practice portraits (obviously painted from photos). Interestingly his self portrait for the competition was also the painting which was an Archibald Finalist in 2012. (The link tells the story of how he painted it).

  • Alex PhilippeBorn in Brussels in 1984, works and lives in London. Studied at Academy of Fine Arts, Painting. Brussels before doing a Masters at Sotheby's Institute of Art, London
  • Samantha Fellows (Facebook | Twitter ) is a professional portrait artist working on commission. She graduated in Fine Art from Oregon State University in the USA. She is also a scenic painter (with a seperate website). She paints scenery for theatre, film, tv, retail and events, as well as mural and street art commissions, has run scenic art companies and continues as a scenic art tutor. I met her in 2016 - and featured her on this blog - when she had portraits of both her daughters in prestigious exhibitions simultaneously in London. Her eldest daughter, "Pearl in the morning, ready for school" was in the BP Portrait Award Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and a portrait of her youngest, "Rose's School Picture" was in the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy. I spotted both daughters in the audience at the Heat - they were behind their mother while she was painting for most of the programme
Samantha Fellows with her family right behind her - literally!
  • Danny Howes is a former graphic designer who is now a professional full time artist who lives and works in Birmingham. His self-portrait includes a nod t Van Gogh. He values narrative  He started painting when his gran bought him a full set of oil paints age 10. There's a lesson in there for grandparents everywhere!  This is a catalogue of his paintings by his gallery
  • Jessica Wolfson - Born in Scotland in 1972, she did her degree at the Glasgow School of Art and lives and works Glasgow. She now teaches at the Glasgow School of Art. She won the BP Portrait Travel Award in 2002.
I am a Glasgow based visual artist specialising in scribbling ,making mistakes , rubbing out and constantly painting over things .

The Amateurs

The four amateur artists participating were:
  • Niki Duffy - This is his self-portrait. b.1988, he did an animation degree at Salford University. He works mostly from photos having used friends as models.  This was the first time he had worked from a live sitter.
  • Lyn Aylward (Facebook | InstagramTwitter) - based in Norfolk, Lyn specialises in portraits and figurative studies worked in oils. She's a member of Artworks and Breckland Artists and exhibits on a regular basis.
  • Miriam Morada (spelling?) - a student from Singapore who is currently studying fine art at Glasgow School of Art.
  • Dave Duffy (Facebook | Instagram |  Twitter) - a former graphic designer and self-taught Irish artist born in Wexford who has no website.  However his Facebook Page has 10,000 followers.  Interestingly he was approached by Sky Arts to enter the programme - which suggests there are people working on behalf of Sky prowling popular Pages and Groups for likely candidates!  He was given a short amount of time to create a self-portrait - which he produced in one session of several hours. He's also a session musician and teacher.

Survey of the self-portraits

As usual, there was a lot of variation in the self-portraits in terms of size, media and pose. Clearly some were designed to attract attention while others very much focused on the quality of the painting.

If you get the opportunity to review the programmes again, the remarks made during the survey are indicative of the sort of features the judges are looking out for.

I'm now pretty convinced that the survey of the self-portraits is pretty critical to who gets through to the shortlist.

My guess it that after the review of the real portraits as opposed to the digital images, the Judges have pretty much decided which are the artists they need to keep a particularly close eye on.

In fact I wouldn't mind betting they have a short list in mind before a brush is lifted!

In part, it's a pragmatic solution to the fact that the day is long and they don't really have time to review and debate which self-portraits they really like at the end of the day. They need to have already decided which ones were "good", which were "mediocre" and which disappointed when seen in person.

Hence the importance of the submission to both getting selected and,, in my opinion, the shortlisted artists in each Heat.

The Sitters 

The sitters were all actors - Claire SkinnerKenneth Cranham, and Sope Dirisu

They were all EXCELLENT sitters - which was I think reflected in the portraits produced by the better painters.

The last time I saw Kenneth Cranham was in Wright Brothers in Borough Market on my 60th birthday! We had a chat while waiting for table...

Discussions and Observations

Strategy / Planning / Timing

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Artists and Illustrators at the Mall Galleries

The Artists and Illustrators "Artist of the Year" Exhibition is on view at the Threadneedle Space in the Mall Galleries until Saturday 24th February (1pm)

You can see the 50 artworks shortlisted for the Readers Choice Award on the competition website.

The winner of the Readers Choice Award - and other awards - is being announced at a special prizegiving event this evening (Tuesday 20 February) at the Mall Galleries.

I saw the exhibition yesterday when I visited the Pastel Society's annual show.  Interestingly people were confused as to which exhibition they were in - and were wondering if the A&I Exhibition was the Pastel Society. This is maybe unsurprising given that last year the Pastel Society also had the Threadneedle Space for their exhibition.

Maybe scope to improve the signposting of the different exhibitions on entrance to the gallery - and individual galleries?

However I have to say I found one very marked difference between the artwork on show compared to that in the Pastel Society exhibition elsewhere in the Mall Galleries.

I walked around slowly once - took some photos and then looked again.

Something was niggling. I always like to work out what a niggle is all about.

I could see that some of the draughtsmanship was good - a bit too good if anything.

I suddenly realised that most of not all of the artwork on display failed to show optical mixing of colours on the support.
  • Most of the paint seemed to be being applied as a single layer
  • I didn't see transparent glazing in the watercolours. 
  • I saw very little paint mixing on the support by those using oils and acrylics. 
This approach to painting creates images which I find curiously flat.  To me it's a technique of painting that is also also very characteristic of an amateur painter.  That's because, unless used by expert hands, it can veer towards giving an impression of 'painting by numbers/fill in the contours" effect.

The painting that I liked best was by Caroline Pool.

Here I am: Sally by Caroline Pool

I recognised the name straight away. She had two works in the very recent Threadneedle Exhibition 2018 and curiously this work is hung about a couple of feet to the left of where one of her paintings hung in the Threadneedle Space last week!

This painting works hard at shapes and form and the differences in textures within the painting.  The cutout effect also demanded that my eye take a close look!  The palette of colours used was also almost triadic - which again made for a pleasing picture.

It's certainly a work by a professional painter and I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if she wins an award tonight.  There again it won't appeal to everyone.....

You can see the prizewinners on

Monday, February 19, 2018

The 4th Derwent Art Prize 2018 - Call for Entries

This is about the Call for Entries from international artists for The 4th Derwent Art Prize
The Prize aims to reward excellence by showcasing the very best 2D & 3D artworks created in created with any pencil or coloured pencil as well as water soluble, pastel, graphite and charcoal by British and International artists.
The prizes total £12,500 and the deadline for entry is 8th May 2018 (5pm GMT)

This is a digest of
  • who can enter, 
  • what you can enter and 
  • how the process works 
  • with an overview of the timeline of dates. 

The Exhibition

Approximately 80 drawings will be selected for exhibition at the Mall Galleries.

  • The exhibition will be held between from 18th – 23rd September 2018. 
  • All artists selected for exhibition will be invited to the Private View and Prize Giving on the evening of Tuesday 18th September 2018.
  • The exhibition will then tour to a number of venues throughout the UK - which means that all work submitted to the competition for exhibition must be available until 31st January 2019.
View of part of the Third Derwent Art Prize Exhibition

The Prizes

The Prize Fund is divided as follows:
  • First Prize £6,000
  • Second Prize £3,000
  • Third Prize £1,500
  • People’s Choice Award – Exhibition £750
  • Young Artist Award – For artists under 25 years £750
  • Coloured Pencil Award for Excellence – £500

The Selectors

A gallery curator, a leading artist and an art critic comprise the independent selection panel who decided which work gets selected for exhibition and which work gets prizes.

They are:
  • Gill Saunders, Head Prints within the Word and Image Department at the V&A. I know her from two of her books which I've got Picturing Plants:An Analytical History of Botanical Illustrations (1995) and Recording Britain (2011)
  • Clare Woods - a painter who trained as a sculptor and is essentially concerned with sculpting an image in paint, and expressing the strangeness of an object.  (This seems like a very odd choice for a competition involving dry media. Is it too much to ask that this competition is judged by a well-regarded practitioner who specialises in drawing! There are after all quite a few of them!!!)
  • Chris Sharratt - a freelance arts writer based in Glasgow who is currently the Editor of the A-N website but has also written for a number of publications
I very much hope that this year the organisers actually check that the judges have both read and understand the conditions of entry! (i.e. no making up their own version of entry requirements and terms and conditions!) I don't enjoy highlighting Judges who very clearly breach the rules of the competition. See Derwent Art Prize 2014 - ineligible drawing wins first prize?

How to Enter

The official websites / pages of information

This is the website (which has now addressed the major omission which I identified last time I wrote this blog post in 2016)
This is the Facebook Page - which is never very active.
This is the Twitter account @DerwentPencils which is quite active.
You can see the Derwent Art Range on the sponsor's website.

You can download catalogues from previous competitions to see the sort of work that gets selected

If intending to submit an entry do make sure you read carefully
This is the Online Entry Form

The competition and exhibition organisers are Parker Harris. Further enquiries about the competition should be addressed to Parker Harris, on: or Tel. + 44 (0) 1372 462190 - but do look at the FAQs first!

Who can enter?

The Prize is open to all British and international artists (as defined by the rules)
  • Nationality:  The eligible geographical regions / countries are: 
    • Europe, 
    • North America,
    • South America, 
    • Africa, 
    • Asia (participating countries: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand), 
    • The Middle East (participating countries: United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan) and 
    • Oceania (Australia, New Zealand). 
  • Who else can enter
    • Previous prizewinners can enter
    • A third party agency (such as a gallery) can enter work but there are significant conditions that must be met (i.e. the third party must confirm the conditions stated point 7 of the Terms & Conditions.)
  • Age: 
    • All entrants must be over the age of 18 years old on 1st June 2018. 
    • You also have to be alive!

Eligible artwork

Eligible media

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Read: Starting out - TIPS for an Emerging Artist

This is the first in an occasional series of "long SUNDAY READS". By which I mean, highlighting topics or web pages which involve reading for more than a minute!

If you are an artist who has developed your skills in making art and worked out what you want to make art about - you might now be wanting to move on to the next stage.

So my first read relates to a page which is trying to answer all those questions that artists have when they want to move on
  • If you're NOT a hobby painter who's happy hanging artwork on your walls or stashing it in cupboards
but rather you're 
  • an art student who wants to gear up for your future career
  • an established artist whose career has stalled - and you need a refresh
  • just an artist who wants to make some progress beyond making art
Try reading STARTING OUT - TIPS ​for an Emerging Artist

This first SUNDAY READ is all about the attitudes, habits, knowledge and practices related to the art business which will help emerging artists develop their careers - and exhibit and sell their art.

Although the page is titled "Starting Out" it's actually as much for more established artists who want to "rev up" their careers

So If you want.....
  • to be a success as an artist
  • to avoid failing as an artist
  • to be successful selling 'daily paintings'
  • to sell your art online
  • to exhibit your work
  • to be more productive
  • to develop your career
  • to get representation by a gallery
Try my LONG SUNDAY READ #1 for tips about "what you need to know" and practical advice about working as a visual artist.

It's by no means a finished page.  I'm intending this should be a page that I keep adding content to over time - as I develop more of my Art Business Info for Artists website.

Do please take a look. I'm very happy to receive any thoughts, queries or comments you may have via

  • EITHER feedback in a private message to my website
  • OR leave a comment on this blog post below.

I'm particularly interested in the questions that emerging artists want answered. That will help with the continued development of the page. I already know what quite a few of these are - but am always interested to learn more about what are your BIG issues. 

Plus you never know I may have already written about the topic!


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Graphite and watercolour - two NEW guides

Two new publications by leading artists who demonstrate expertise in their respective fields
  • one is a new book about his watercolour portfolio by leading watercolour painter David Poxon RWS NWS
  • the second is a detailed guide about using graphite for scientific illustration by Rogério Lupo.
[Note: This post has been revised since first published]

Watercolour Heart and Soul by David Poxon

Watercolour, Heart & Soul is David Poxon's first book about how he paints in watercolour.

To me that seems somewhat surprising given he's been a leading watercolour painter with an international reputation. Indeed he's moved on to being one of those artists who you see a lot of other artists trying to emulate his paintings!

David is an elected member of the prestigious R.I. (The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours) and serves on the R.I. Council. He is also a signature member of N.W.S (The National Watercolour Society) in the USA and has served on the jury for selection (in 2015).

The book is now published.
Watercolour Heart & Soul contains an eclectic collection of his most iconic paintings together with a detailed section describing the artists techniques. Author's website
I confess I've not yet seen a copy as it is so new, however if it's as good as David's paintings.....

UPDATE: Please note I am only suggesting this book for people who want to see David's paintings. 

You can order this 190 page book in one of three ways

Graphite for Scientific Illustration by Rogerio Lupo

Graphite for Scientific Illustration by Brazilian illustrator Rogério Lupo is a new English translation of his Guide (in Portuguese) about how to use graphite for scientific illustration of botanical subjects.

This is a FREE guide which can be downloaded as a PDF file from Slideshare (just click the link in the title above)

It's intended for:
  • anyone interested in learning about the fundamentals of graphite 
  • anyone who wants improve their knowledge and skills in the use of graphite for scientific illustration generally and botanical illustration in particular.
The guide covers the following:
  • how to observe and render light and shadow and nuances accurately
  • How to sharpen, handle and move a pencil to achieve better application and coverage of the support with graphite
  • How to use pencil delicately so as to make good use of time, achieve a good finish and preserve the integrity of the paper
  • how to render shade gradually from the lightest to the darkest tones
  • How to render the different textures and colours of subject matter in monochoromatic shades of grey
  • How to recognise and represent luminosities, reflections and contrasts; 
  • Practical and fast methods for rendering of hairs and thorns.
  • How to prevent errors, cope with problems with paper and damage which cannot be repaired
He also provides a very useful commentary on both brands and grades of graphite and different types of paper suitable for working on when using graphite.

Rogério Lupo is a Brazilian Natural Science Illustrator based in Sao Paulo. He has won first prize in several competitions including the very prestigious Margaret Flockton Award - for international 'strictly botanical' illustrators in 2010 and 2013. He graduated in biology from the Universidade de São Paulo. Much of his work is dedicated to the illustration of scientific botanical articles/papers. He has also researched different approaches to illustration and artistic techniques.

Judging by the traffic to my blog post yesterday on my Botanical Art and Artists website, there's very great interest in getting hold of this Guide!

Hence why I decided to share it with a wider audience.