Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bodleian Treasures and Painting by Numbers

If you're ever in Oxford, as I was on Friday, I urge you to go to the Weston Library on Broad Street Oxford (opposite the Sheldonian Theatre). There are two displays of note involving natural history and botanical artwork from the past.

Bodleian Treasures: 21 pairs and a tropical forest

(Bodleian Treasures: 21 pairs and a tropical forest until 11 February 2018)
This is the first is a periodically rotating exhibition which pairs up two items from some of the best treasures of the 12 million items in the Bodleian Library Collection.

At the moment one of the major displays included covers a Tropical Forest (see below)

Tropical Forests display
It also includes a copy of Audubon's Birds of America

The owl in Audubon's Birds of America
Plus a volume of Robert Thornton's Temple of Flora on display (see below). “The Temple of Flora” is the third and final part of Robert John Thornton’s New illustration of the sexual system of Carolus von Linnaeus. 

I couldn't find a digital copy on the Bodleian website - so here's the version contributed by the Misssouri Botanical Library to the Internet Archive

Double page spread from Robert Thornton's Temple of Flora
In addition, the display included an 11th century Herbal -  translation of a translation of the Herbarius of Pseudo-Apuleius. The plants were drawn first and the text added afterwards.
The Herbarium Apulei was one of the most widely used remedy books of the Middle Ages. Over 60 medieval manuscripts of the text survive.
Copy of the Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius (11th century)
Dropwort is illustrated on the left and Narcissus poeticus on the right

Painting by Numbers

(Painting by Numbers until 9 July 2017) - This is about a Leverhulme sponsored scientific project to decipher Ferdinand Bauer's colour code - used for annotating his sketches made while accompany expeditions around the world. It's explained in this article Bodleian display showcases scientific research into Bauer's botanical masterpieces.
The display is in the main entrance hall - next to the entrance to the Treasures exhibition.

The Painting by Numbers Display
One of Bauer's annotated sketch for the Flora Graeca
Bauer made hundreds of pencil sketches of plants and animals when he explored the eastern Mediterranean in 1786-87.
Bauer's Colour System - a numerical colour code and pigments in mussel shells
There will be a lecture next Wednesday lunchtime (24th May) about Reconstructing Ferdinand Bauer's mysterious colour code by Dr Richard Mulholland, Leverhulme Research Fellow, Bodleian Libraries. Dr Mulholland is an art historian who is usually involved with lots of scientists in relation to the conservation of art from the past.

The project aims to decipher Bauer's numerical code used on one of his expeditions (for the Flora Graeca - also a Treasure of the Bodleian) and identify the numbers back to colours and pigments. (You can see a digital version of the Flora Graeca online)

I'll also be writing in more depth about this project and last Friday's lecture by Rosemary Wise, the botanical illustrator working with Oxford University in Botanical Art and Artists - News next week

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Sketch" 2017 - sketchbook exhibition opens at Rabley Drawing Centre

The 2017 SKETCH Open Sketchbook Drawing Prize aims to promote diversity and the importance to contemporary creative practice of both:
  • drawing and 
  • the role of the sketchbook

100 artists’ sketchbooks selected for the Prize - selected from over 500 submissions - are now on exhibition at the Rabley Contemporary Drawing Centre and Gallery at Rabley Barn, Mildenhall, Marlborough, Wiltshire SN8 2LW - opening today and on display until 17th June 2017.
The exhibition will also tour to the following venues
There are less selected artists than sketchbooks which I guess means some had more one sketchbook selected! The artists who created the selected sketchbooks are listed below. I've highlighted artists I know or know of.

If you want an image of your sketchbook displayed on this page please contact me with an image of your sketchbook and preferred website address.
  • Nidhi Agarwal, 
  • Nilofar Akmut, 
  • Lucy Austin, 
  • Peter Avery, 
  • Michelle Avison, 
  • Naomi Avsec, 
  • Richard Baker, 
  • Garry Barker, 
  • Brian Bishop, 
  • Andy Black, 
  • Kate Black, 
  • Patrick Blower, 
  • Julie Bolus - a reportage artist based in Norwich who I know from Urban Sketchers
  • Neil Bousfield, 
  • Meg Buick, 
  • Robbie Bushe, 
  • Tom Cartmill, 
  • Becca Collins, 
  • Eugenia Cuellar, 
  • Yael David-Cohen, 
  • Mel Day, 
  • Anne Desmet RA - an artist who specializes in wood engravings, linocuts and mixed media collages - and a member of the RA
  • Clare Dudeney, 
  • Cameron Duke, 
  • Richard Eastwood, 
  • Peter Esslemont, 
  • Anny Evason, 
  • David Ferry, 
  • Coral G Guest - a flower painter I know who now also draws and paints landscapes. I was extremely pleased to get to include her drawings in my book about drawing and sketching
Iceland - Light into Dark by Coral Guest
The page shows a sketch of snow capped mountain in the Thorsmork Valley, Iceland.
James Hobbs's Sketchbook - double page display
  • Louise Holgate, 
  • Hilary Owers & Graham Hooper, 
  • Laura Hudson, 
  • Neil Irons, 
  • Lily Irwin, 
  • Paul Jackson, 
  • Alexander Johnson, 
  • Anne Kristin Hages, 
  • Karen Lorenz, 
  • Christine Mackey, 
  • Tony Martin, 
  • Patrick Martin, 
  • Lynda Marwood, 
  • Anna McDowell, 
  • Ruth Miemczyk, 
  • Julie Moss, 
  • Stephen Mumberson, 
  • Liz Myhill, 
  • Maureen Nathan - wrote to tell me she has two sketchbooks included in the exhibition. An image of one of the pages from one of her sketchbooks can be seen below. She wrote about one of them in Not Moleskine on her blog
Maureen Nathan Sketchbook
  • Simon Nicholas, 
  • Maureen O'Leary, 
  • Alison O'Neill, 
  • Beñat Olaberria, 
  • Edith Pargh Barton, 
  • Simon Parish, 
  • Helena Park, 
  • Stephanie Parr, 
  • Chitra Parvathy Merchant, 
  • Caroline Pedler, 
  • Howard Read, 
  • Chloe Regan, 
  • Margot Shores, 
  • Julie-Ann Simpson, 
  • Serena Smith, 
  • Barbara Sykes, 
  • Sadie Tierney, 
  • Luke Treece-Birch, 
  • David Willetts, 
  • Melanie Wickham
The panel of Judges were
  • Tom Hammick, painter and printer; 
  • Peter Randell-Page RA, sculptor; 
  • Gill Saunders, Senior Curator (Prints), Word & Image Dept, V&A Museum

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pandora Sellars (1936-2017)

Pandora Sellars, whose paintings played a key role in the resurgence of botanical art in the UK - and across the world - died last week in her home county of Herefordshire.

Pandora Sellars - Blue Water Lily Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea, (1995), watercolour on paper
Pandora Sellars - Blue Water Lily Nymphaea nouchali var. caerulea, (1995), watercolour on paper
For those of you who have previously followed my blogging about botanical art on Making A Mark, you may wish to read my tribute to her which you can find on my dedicated botanical art news blog. See Pandora Sellars - an appreciation of a great botanical artist to learn how much she meant to botanical artists all over the world.

Some of her paintings - including the iconic blue water lily - are currently on display in the British Artists in the Shirley Sherwood Collection at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew Gardens until 17th September 2017.

You can read more about that exhibition in my blog post back in March about British Artists in the Shirley Sherwood Collection - an exhibition at Kew

She doesn't have a website. However I will be building a page about her life and botanical art career as part of my section related to the Twentieth Century Masters of Botanical Art on my website.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Adele Block Bauer and 'Woman in Gold'

I've just watched the film Woman In Gold on BBC - about the portrait of Adele Block-Bauer by Gustav Klimt - and had to keep restraining myself from reaching for my iPhone to check what the outcome was. The nuisance of a memory which remembers some facts but not all of them!

Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer (the so-called "Woman in Gold") 1907
by Gustav Klimt
oil, silver and gold on canvas, 140 × 140 cm (55.1 × 55.1 in)
Current Location: Neue Galerie New York

So for those who were equally intrigued here's what I found.

You can see the film, made in 2015, on BBC2 channel on iPlayer (for the next 29 days)


  • painted in 1907 - and commissioned by Ferdinand Block-Bauer 
  • 1925 - Adele Bloch-Bauer died suddenly of meningitis, in Vienna on January 24
  • 1928 - lent for an exhibition at the Vienna Secession in 1928 to mark the tenth anniversary of Klimt's death
  • 1934 - displayed in London as part of the Austria in London exhibition
  • 1937 - lent for display at the Paris Exposition
  • between 1938 and 1941: nationalised by the German/Austrian State
  • December 1941 - Führer transferred the paintings Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I and Apfelbaum I to the Galerie Belvedere (now Österreichische Galerie Belvedere)
  • 1945 - Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer (Adele's husband) died on 13 November 
  • 2006: restituted to Maria Altmann, the niece of the Bloch-Bauers by Österreichische Galerie Belvedere
  • purchased by Ronald Lauder ($135 million) from Maria Altmann
  • transferred to Neue Galerie in New York City from Ronald Lauder

Related Websites

About the portrait

About the key persona

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Pink Floyd's Fabulous Mortal Remains at the V&A

You might wonder why I'm reviewing an exhibition about a band on art an art blog.

There again you might wonder why a band like Pink Floyd is having a major retrospective exhibition at the Victoria And Albert Museum. The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains opens on Saturday (for 20 weeks until 1 October 2017).

Ummagumma repeat x repeat
However Pink Floyd were a very visual band. I don't find this surprising given that three of the band members were former architectural students who were used to thinking in terms of big designs and large structures. Plus right back at the beginning they knew some very smart design people in Storm Thorgeson and Po Powell aka as Hipgnosis (which it turns out was a word written on the wall of their flat by Syd Barrett. Plus they hooked up with some equally smart visual people as they progressed through their albums.

It's also because Pink Floyd were a constant backdrop to my time spent studying in Cambridge in the 70s.

Boyfriend was a big fan; Dark Side came out while I was in Cambridge and of course they are fundamentally a Cambridge band. My digs in my penultimate year were with a don who lived in Rock Road, literally right across the road from the house where Roger Waters spent his childhood and where his mother still lived. Syd Barrett lived just up the road etc etc. (I loved the Pink Floyd map of Cambridge!!)

I suspect The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains might just become one of the most popular exhibitions ever at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
this exhibition will be an immersive, multi-sensory and theatrical journey through Pink Floyd’s extraordinary world
The first three days sold out within hours of tickets opening for sale.

Before you read on, you need to understand that I am one of those people who got a ticket fast. It's been pinned on my wall above my desk for months and months!

I'll be back there on Monday to see the exhibition with my ex-boyfriend and his wife. Meanwhile I'll be emailing him to say he might want to go and buy himself another ticket - because I think the real fans are going to want to spend HOURS in this exhibition!

Not just because of the subject matter - but also because of how the exhibition has been put together.  That and the fact hard core fans never just go to a concert once.....

I wrote on Facebook while I was sat in the recreation of the Live 8 concert.
Just reached the end of The Pink Floyd Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.It's one of the most visually and aurally creative exhibitions I've EVER been to. It will take fans HOURS to go through. A retrospective with non-stop music on your headphones which changes automatically and constant visual stimulation. Absolutely amazing!
It satisfies on so many levels:
  • it's a retrospective based around the albums and there are masses of detail and memorabilia associated with each - some of it quite extraordinary.
The Early Years and first albums
Syd Barrett wall
  • the sound is constant. The audio is extraordinarily clever. The thing they give you for the headphones works out PRECISELY where you are in the exhibition and plays the music or audio interview which goes with what you are looking at. I've got a four page explanation about all the sound. Suffice to say it is AMAZING!
  • the visuals are quite overwhelming at times - right from the entrance through a giant version of their original van, past the Hipgnosis covers, via the 'unusual photography' and animations, past the huge blowups of the schoolmaster and Pink from the Wall, and Battersea Power Station - complete with Pig through to the end, where you can relive the miracle of the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park in 2005 when the band became four again - and the music plays with visuals on all four walls in a large room which is going to be packed as soon as the exhibition opens.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Review: Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters 2017

The 2017 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters struck me as being very different this year.
To me, it seemed as if:
  • there are fewer portraits of celebrities - or maybe the "famous people" are just more low key (apart from Melvyn Bragg!)?
  • the commissioned portraits of the corporate and academic souls somehow seem less evident - which is a good thing. I know the commissions are the meat and drink of a portrait artist's life but they have made for a pretty dull main gallery in the past. 
  • the hang is better this year. There's a better mix of portraits in the main gallery and interesting work in all three galleries
  • this year the exhibition also seems to have caught up with current times as it reflects diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender much better than ever before
  • a model called Barrie is in four different portraits. If you visit the exhibition why not see if you can spot them all?
The exhibition is being held in the Main Gallery, North Galleries and Threadneedle Space of the Mall Galleries between 4th May and 17th May 2017.

Entrance to the Mall Galleries and the Annual Exhibition
of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
This is the third exhibition for Robin Lee-Hall as President and she retires at the end of the month. A new President will be elected at the AGM after the exhibition.

End Wall in the Main Gallery - portraits by members of the Society
Threadneedle Space

The small portraits wall in the Main Gallery - spot Julie Walters and Jo Brand

Exhibition metrics - and the Open Entry

Below is some data which hopefully puts the open entries selected for exhibition into context and provides some useful background for those hoping to enter future exhibitions.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Prizewinners at the 126th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters

This is a post about the people who were given awards at the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters on Wednesday at its very well attended Private View at the Mall Galleries. 

Tomorrow I'll write a review of the exhibition.

It was lovely to speak to so many of the members and those aspiring to be members who got portraits selected for the exhibition.

The exhibition opened yesterday and continues until 19th May (10am-5pm). It's open until 7pm on the 9th and 16th May. Admission is £4 and £2.50 concession plus 50% off to National Art Pass Holders. Free to Friends of Mall Galleries and under 18s

There is a list of artist demonstrations at the end of this post. Most of them cost nothing.

RSPP 2017 Prizewinners

Congratulations to the RSPP and the support staff at the Mall Galleries for having the complete list of prizewinners available when I walked through the door and having posted them on Facebook before I even got to the exhibition!

Hopefully this post enhances that communication by discussing aspects of portrait or artist or both.

The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture 

Prize: £10,000 + Gold Medal
Winner: Shawn McGovern for James

Winner of the Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture
James by Shawn McGovern

oil, 83cm x 60cm £5,500
Shawn has a First Class degree (BA Fine Art Painting) from Wimbledon College of Art and he also did the Postgraduate Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School.

The painting is of his girlfriend's brother.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

New BBC Series - An Art Lovers Guide to three cities

"An Art Lovers Guide" is a new three part series on BBC Four about discovering a city through key aspects of its art and design.

An Art Lovers Guide - a new short BBC4 series
I watched the first programme on Amsterdam. It's definitely worth watching - particularly if you enjoy art history and/or you've not been to the cities covered but hope to do in future.

The two presenters Janina Ramirez and Alastair Sooke are both well qualified for the task of providing a guide. They're personable as well as academically credible, have both presented television series on art for the BBC before and, most importantly, they can both string words together on the hoof and make an intelligent comment.

Their pairing also gives us the benefit of one individual (Janina) who is enthusiastic about the past and another (Alastair) who is a fan of modern and contemporary art. Good choice! I think this might be a series which could run and run.

The cities being covered are detailed below with their BBC "blurb"

  • Links in the title are to the detailed pages by BBC Media identifying what they cover. 
  • The link to the iPlayer version of the programme is below the first one.

Amsterdam: An Art Lovers' Guide

With sumptuous palaces, exquisite artworks and stunning architecture, every great city offers a dizzying multitude of cultural highlights. So what should an art lover see on a flying visit?

This is the link to the programme on BBC iPlayer

Barcelona: An Art Lovers' Guide

In this second episode of An Art Lovers’ Guide, Janina Ramirez and Alastair Sooke are on a mission to get to know one of the most popular cities in the world through its art and architecture - Barcelona.

St Petersburg: An Art Lovers' Guide

In the final episode, Janina Ramirez and Alastair Sooke explore St Petersburg through its dazzling art and architecture.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

See Ed Sheeran in the National Portrait Gallery tomorrow

Tomorrow morning you can walk into the National Portrait Gallery and see Ed Sheeran with a big head.

NPG 7035: Edward Christopher (Ed) Sheeran (b.1991-)
by Colin Davidson (b.1968-)
Oil on linen, 2016 1270 mm x 1170 mm (50 in. x 46 in.)
© Colin Davidson

Or rather a rather large oil painting of his head.

It's the first portrait painting of Sheeran by a professional artist since he began his career as a musician.

The painting is by Colin Davidson who likes painting larger than life size paintings.  This particular painting is some around about four feet square - so that's a pretty "big head" (and there was me thinking we'd come to the end of the era of "big heads"!)

You can find it in Room 39, Ground Floor Lerner Contemporary Galleries, National Portrait Gallery, London, from 3 May 2017 (Admission free).

It appears that the proposal to paint a portrait followed a meeting between the artist and the singer's father John Sheeran (who, as it happens, is the former Curator of Dulwich Picture Gallery)

Ed then agreed to sit and the main sitting for the portrait was in August 2015. It's based on twenty drawings from life and reference photographs.

Davidson studied Sheeran intently for up to three hours which apparently Sheeran found fascinating, as the whole process contrasted to his fast-paced lifestyle.
‘When painting a portrait I am looking for the moment when the person is almost unaware of me being there and I feel I got it with Ed. I deliberately didn’t want Ed to perform and that was odd for him. But there is a youthful aspect to the portrait but also something experienced beyond his years.’ Colin Davidson
His larger-than-life paintings are explained as follows
‘They are all deliberately the same size; the idea is that everyone I paint is an equal and that format allows the face to become something else. If you see a painting of a face that is life-size, it never becomes anything else, it is a head. If it is smaller or bigger it can become something else’. Colin Davidson
Notable recent portraits he'd done include:
  • The Queen - commissioned by Co-Operation Ireland, of which the monarch is a joint patron - and unveiled by the Queen
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the cover of Time Magazine's Person of the Year edition in 2015 
Davidson is represented in the collections of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, the Ulster Museum in Belfast and the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

Facts about the sitter and the artist

Ed Sheeran

  • singer-songwriter, actor, guitarist and record producer 
  • one of the most successful musicians in contemporary British popular culture. 
  • His 2011 debut album, + (‘Plus’), reached platinum status six-times in the UK. 
  • The album featured the hit single “The A Team”, which received the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically and was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2013 Grammy Awards. S
  • Sheeran’s second album x (‘Multiply’) released in 2014, 
    • achieved number one in both the UK and US charts 
    • became the most-streamed album in the world for 2014. 
    • won British Album of the Year at the 2015 Brit Awards and his single ‘Thinking Out Loud’ earned him two Grammy Awards at the 2016 ceremony. 
  • The British singer-songwriter's third album ÷ (Divide), released in March 2017, 
    • debuted at No 1 on the Official UK Album Charts 
    • achieved 672,000 sales in its opening week 
    • made history as the fastest-selling album by a male artist.
I think that certainly justifies his "person of note" status meriting a portrait in the National Portrait Gallery. (i.e. additions to the Collection of the National portrait Gallery need to meet the criteria of those who have made an important contribution to British history and culture).

Well spotted Colin Davison for recognising an opportunity was there for the creating!

Colin Davidson

  • leading portrait artist based in Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Art and Design degree (First Class Hons) from the University of Ulster, Belfast (1987-91) 
  • Honorary Degree for Art in 2016 from Queen’s University, Belfast. 
  • He has participated in the National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award three times in 2011-2013, winning the BP Portrait Award Visitor’s Choice Award in 2012 (see below - which I found in my folder for BP2012!)
The Dialects of Silence (Portrait of Michael Longley)
by Colin Davidson, 2012
  • Davidson’s recent portrait series, Silent Testimony, exhibited in 2015 at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, depicted eighteen individuals linked by privately endured experiences of loss that transformed their lives during the Troubles years in Northern Ireland. Seamus Heaney, Brad Pitt, Sir Kenneth Branagh and The Queen are among his many portrait subjects.
  • website
  • Facebook Page

Monday, May 01, 2017

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth - an exhibition at the Bodleian

Next year Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth will be on display in the Weston Library of The Bodleian Libraries in Oxford between 1 June-28 October 2018.
This exhibition will explore the full breadth of Tolkien’s unique literary imagination from his creation of Middle-earth, the imagined world where The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and his other works are set, to his life and work as an artist, poet, medievalist and scholar of languages.
The exhibition focuses on the creative genius of Professor J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

It's an exhibition which is guaranteed to delight visitors of all ages as well as Tolkien fans and scholars.  It's also the first time, since the 1950s, that literary and visual materials produced by Tolkein - now held in the UK and the USA - will be on display in Oxford.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth will feature:
Below are some of the images from The Hobbit (published on 21 September 1937) which will be in the exhibition.

Below is the final design of the dust jacket which many of us will be very familiar with. It's certainly one of the books I remember best reading as a child over 50 years ago. It's also a book which has never been out of print.

Hobbit Dust Jacket
Credit: © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937
Tolkien not only illustrated The Hobbit but was also closely involved in its production process. He designed both the dust-jacket and the binding. Tolkien’s notes can be seen around the outside of the image.

Apparently he was very keen to use four colours for the printing of the dust cover: green, blue, black and red but this was too expensive. The note scrawled by the publisher across the  left hand margin says ‘Ignore red’.

Bilbo comes to the huts of the Raft-elves
© The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937
Bilbo is seen sitting astride a barrel floating down the forest river,
having helped the dwarves (who are hidden inside the wine barrels)
to escape from the dungeons of the Elven King.
This was Tolkien’s favourite watercolour. It's a watercolour which would be regarded as an accomplished illustration from a professional illustrator. Instead it was painted by Tolkein himself who was the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and a Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford at the time!

This illustration appeared in the first edition and continued to be included in numerous other editions of the book. However, Tolkien was very disappointed to find that it had been omitted from the first American edition.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Discerning Eye (1990-2016) - which artists have shown the most?

In 2016, the Discerning Eye Exhibition of small works celebrated its 25th anniversary. (see my review of the 2016 exhibition ING Discerning Eye 2016 - award winners and review)

The DE people have done a count and calculated that in the first 25 years:
  • 3,563 artists have been selected for the 25 exhibitions and 
  • 12,490 works of art have been exhibited!
What's very interesting is that the website now lists the top 20 artists who have shown work in the shows. Those with a number more than 25 have had multiple works picked in certain years.

What makes this interesting is that these are artists who either have universal appeal over time - or are very well connected to those doing the selection! (i.e. the table does not explain how many were invited to exhibit and how many of the paintings came from selection via the open entry). Whichever, it's still a fascinating list.

Below is the list and embedded in their names is a link to their website. Interspersed are
  • some of my photos from past exhibitions - although I've only been covering them for 10 years. (Below is my own small work - a sketch from the 2007 ING Discerning Eye exhibition - which is one of my favourites. I believe that Mall Galleries enthusiasts will have no difficulty recognising the man with no face!)
  • some quotations from individuals associated with the exhibitions.
Small paintings, at their best, have something unique to offer the viewer - intimacy. Intimacy affords the artist an opportunity to speculate.  Qualities which would normally be inappropriate in a larger work thrive. Small paintings can be exquisite, tentative and fragile. Small paintings can embrace uncertainty without seeming flawed. By the same token small paintings demand a kind of accuracy on the part of the artist, accuracy of intention. | Graham Crowley - top 20 artist and artist selector 2002

"Visual Language"
my sketch in pencil and coloured pencil from my first ING Discerning Eye exhibition

Most Shown Artists at Discerning Eye

Light reflected across the valley - Paul Newland (DE 2015)
oil, 15x15 inches
Joint top with 34 works each are:

The latter two have provided some unique perspectives on art and how to address its modern ills.

First a comment from John Ward in the context of the third exhibition.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A list of recommended picture framers

All artists appreciate a recommendation about a framer. 

You know how this works:
  • if you want a recommendation you need to share who you recommend!
  • if you want the good framers to stay in business, we need to make sure they get asked to do lots of work!
  • plus you do everybody a great service it you provide recommendations on your website for:
    • the materials you like to use and 
    • the framers you patronise because you get a great service 
the studio of an 18th centuryGerman framework gilder

List of recommended picture framers

The next logical step is a list of recommended picture framers. Which is where I come in...

I get absolutely no financial benefit from doing this. Like my blog it's just something I'm doing and sharing - because it helps people

I just know this is information artists need and it works better if there is somebody who provides a list.

So that's what I've done

On my my Art Business Info for Artists website, I have a dedicated page for a List of Recommended Picture Framers
  • These are framers who are recommended by artists who have used them - on the artist's website or blog.
  • they are listed in two different ways:
    • traditional vs online
    • geographical location
At present the listing is limited to the UK and Ireland but there's no reason why it shouldn't include people around the world.

There's just one thing - the recommendation has to come from the artist and there needs to be evidence of a recommendation on his or her website or blog.

View of a framework mill, oil on canvas
You are very welcome to add your recommendations to this list

If you'd like to recommend a picture framer this is what you do.
Complete the form at the bottom of the website page
  • state your name and your email address (ie recommendations cannot be anonymous and can only come from artists)
  • state the name of the Framer, where they are located
  • Identify the URL of a website or blog where you recommend this framer online. If you haven't recommended the framer online then the framer cannot be added to this listing.
By way of explanation, it's more convincing as a recommendation if you also list them on your website and/or have examples of their work on your website.

Who do you recommend as a picture framer?

Below are links to more of blog posts about framing and hanging pictures.

Links to more blog posts about framing

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Preview the NEAC Annual Exhibition 2017

A preview of the New English Art Club's 2017 annual exhibition is now available online.

The exhibition is on display at the Mall Galleries between 16-25th June 2017. All the artwork is for sale

However it's ALSO on display right now as a "virtual online exhibition" via

The annual exhibitions at the Mall Galleries by the art societies belonging to the Federation of British Arts all now have have their catalogue and images online prior to the exhibition opening.

Cover of the NEAC Catalogue for the 2017 Annual Exhibition
In practical terms what this means is:
  • VISIT: you can see very quickly if this is an exhibition you'd like to visit in person
  • COLLECT: art collectors who follow particular artists now tend to buy in advance of the exhibition opening - to make sure they get the artwork they want!
  • BUY ONLINE: those used to buying art online are much more likely to have a good look at what's on offer beforehand - rather than wait for the exhibition opening 
  • GET A BARGAIN!: those on the lookout for "the smart buy" - a great painting selling for a very reasonable sum - are now much more likely to be bought in advance. I'd liken these to the small paintings which always sell well and very quickly at the PV.
  • THINK AGAIN: If you get home and then wish you'd bought the painting you liked, you now have a very easy way of doing something about this.

What you need to do if you want to buy

First check out the paintings and drawings in the exhibition

To do this click on the title below the artwork (i.e. don't click on the image - nothing happens!)

CLICK TITLE below the artwork to see a larger image

This will bring up a page for the artwork which has
  • a larger image
  • details about the artwork i.e. media and size 
  • confirmation of the price
  • a link to more information about the artist if the artist is a member - in this case June Berry NEAC Hon. RE RWA RWS - who is one of the more senior members of NEAC (born 1924) whose drawings and paintings I've been enjoying for many years
  • a form to complete to make an enquiry about the artwork
  • an invitation to "view in a room" - which gives an approximate size rather than exact.

This is the page you will see if you click the title
If you want to buy a painting you like the look of you need to:
  • EITHER email the Mall Galleries using the form which pops up on the page for the artwork (after you have clicked on the title)
  • OR telephone the Mall Galleries on 0207 930 6844 and you will be able to purchase the painting using plastic over the phone.
TIP: I tend to right click on the title to bring up the image in a new tab. That's because the back button on my browser takes me back to the beginning of the virtual exhibition rather than the specific page I'd got to.

If you had the money....

Which artwork would you buy if you had the money?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017: Call for Entries

Registration is now open for entries for The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017 which has a first prize of £8,000.

View of part of last year's Jerwood Drawing Exhibition 
This is the last year of Jerwood's sponsorship of The Drawing Prize project.
  • The project was founded in 1994 as the Rexel Derwent Open Drawing Exhibition 
  • Between 1996 and 2000 it was known as the Cheltenham Open Drawing Exhibition
  • Then in 2001, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation became its principal benefactor. 
It's now a prize in search of sponsor for 2018.

In the meantime the 2017 exhibition for The Jerwood Drawing Prize is seeking entries for and exhibition and somebody to give the prizes to!

Those who entered the Derwent Drawing Prize in 2016 should certainly be taking a look below...

One of the Student Awards 2016
went to the drawings of "dreams and nightmares" by Amelie Barnathan

Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017 - Summary of Key Points

This open exhibition is a platform for drawing practitioners to showcase their work alongside other leading contemporary artists in the field, and provides those selected with the opportunity to help promote a wider understanding of drawing for future generations. 
Second Prize 2016: Sid in Bathtub
ball pen on tracing paper
by Anna Sofie Jespersen
  • The deadline for registration of entries is 17.00 on 28th June 2017
  • Significant cash prizes for drawing
  • Up to 3 drawings
  • Online registration - this is the online entry page
  • Drawings must then be submitted to a number of Regional Collection Centres for drop-off and/or pick-up in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and around the English regions - see end of this post
  • Fees for submission vary between London and the Regions.
  • Work can be for sale - but you need to allow for the 50% commission levied on all sales made at the exhibition(s).
  • Notification of selection will via email by Friday 21 July 2017
For further information and links please visit

Eligible artists - Who can enter

The Jerwood Drawing Prize is open to
  • artists resident in the UK
  • everybody who works with drawing from students to established artists.
Only artists who have registered online by 5pm on 28 June 2017 will be eligible to submit their drawings to the Submission Centre.

The Jerwood Drawing Prize is open to all artists resident in the UK. (So you don't have to be born here but you need to be living here legally.)

Eligible Drawings - What you can enter

  • Work MUST have made since January 2016
  • You can submit up to three drawings (note you can change your mind about how many drawings you're submitting up until 28 June)
  • Composite drawings must be presented within one frame.
  • Work should not exceed 2.5m in any dimension when framed.
  • There are specific requirements as to framing
  • Each drawing must be authenticated by the artist in an appropriate place (eg signed and dated, on the reverse of the work or frame is acceptable). 
Note there is no stipulation as to what you draw with - or what you draw on or how you draw - and this is intentional.

Note that the First Prize in 2016 was won by a video - Singularity by Solveig Settemsdal (b.1984) - see BBC | Video Art wins Jerwood Drawing Prize
"which offers an almost sculptural digital rendering of the transformative and fluid drawing process."

The Selection Panel 2017

The Selection Panel will aim to create an exhibition that explores and celebrates the excellence and range of current drawing practice in the UK.
The Panel members are:
Last year the selection panel viewed 2,537 works submitted by 1,408 entrants over a two-day period.

The Exhibition

Up to 70 drawings will be selected for the exhibition.

It may be less. Last year 61 works by 55 artists were selected for the 2016 Jerwood Drawing Exhibition

The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017 exhibition will, as usual, be at the Jerwood Space, 171 Union Street, London SE1.
  • The Jerwood Drawing Prize winners will be announced on Tuesday 12 September 2017.
  • The exhibition opens to the public on 13 September and continues until 22 October 2017.
It will then tour to venues across the UK.

The Jerwood Drawing Prizes 2017

  • First Prize: £8,000; 
  • Second Prize: £5,000 and 
  • two Student Awards: £2,000 each 
All four prizewinners in 2016 were women.

  • The second prize was won by Anna Sofie Jespersen (b.1992) for her ball pen on tracing paper work, Sid in Bathtub (studying for a Fine Art Degree at Chelsea College of Art)
  • Two Student Awards of £2,000 each went to 
  • Jade Chorkularb (b. 1971) for "That What They Would Do" a video of real-time drawings during interviews with people being asked what they would do if they only had an hour left to live.
  • Amelie Barnathan (b. 1991). studying for her MA in Visual Communication at the RCA produced large-scale drawings which rendered dreams and nightmares. 

Collection Points

  • London - Wimbledon College of Art 
  • Bath - Bath School of Art and Design
  • Belfast - School of Art University of Ulster 
  • Aberystwyth - Aberystwyth University, School of Art
  • Cheltenham - University of Gloucestershire Hardwick Campus 
  • Glasgow - Centre for Contemporary Arts
  • Leeds - The Tetley 1st Floor Galleries
  • Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Fine Art Department, King Edward VII Building, Newcastle University
  • Norwich - Outside Colman House, University of East Anglia
  • Plymouth - Main reception Plymouth College of Art 

Please note that all Submission and Collection dates and times may be subject to change.

You can see past posts on this blog by reviewing posts tagged Jerwood Drawing Prize

Thursday, April 20, 2017

BP Portrait Award Exhibition 2017 - Selected Artists

This year 2,580 artists entered portraits for the BP Portrait Award - but only 53  from 87 countries were selected for the 2017 Exhibition of the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery this summer.

This blog post is about those artists who have been selected to exhibit in the BP Portrait Award 2017 Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery this summer.
the BP Portrait Award 2017 represents the very best in contemporary portrait painting
Here are some numbers:
  • In terms of entries, out of the 2,580 entries from all over the world
    • 1,214 Entries came from the UK - England, Scotland and Wales (47%)
    • 1,366 Entries came from 84 other countries(53%)
  • 218 paintings (8.4%) of the original entries made it through to the final judging session at Trinity Buoy Wharf. 
  • The judges then reduced this number to their selection of the final 53 for the exhibition (representing 2% of the total number of entries).
Alan Coulson with his portrait painting selected for the BP Portrait Award 2017
See the names of the selected artists - organised by the country where they live at present - BELOW - plus:
  • links to their websites and 
  • a short summary of their CV 
  • some photos of the artists and/or their portraits
Allocation to country takes detective work! Where I couldn't work out a country I created a category at the end called "unknown". If anybody spots a mistake with a website please let me know via comment or contact me.

SELECTED ARTISTS ARE INVITED to send me a copy of the image of their portrait - to feature in this blog post - along with a copy of their confirmation email. See the side column for how to contact me.

The Best of the Rest

My commiserations to all those reading this who entered but were not selected for the exhibition
  • My BP "Best of the Rest" will be published on Sunday (subject to receiving enough images of portraits)
  • See my blog post How to enter my BP Portrait "Best of the Rest" 2017 for my invite to those who failed to get selected for the exhibition
  • At the end of the post, you can find links to my posts about selected artists in previous years. Taken together these are an excellent method for studying the type of portraiture which gets selected for this award.

BP Portrait Award 2017 - Exhibiting Artists

Yesterday I posted about the artists shortlisted for the prizes - see BP Portrait Award 2017 - The Shortlist.

Today I must congratulate all those artists who have been selected for the exhibition.

  • LINKS TO THEIR WEBSITES are embedded in their names in the list below (where available). 
  • Previous prizewinners are highlighted in red
  • Those previously selected for the BP have a link to previous portraits (unless they were in those years of the very irritating exhibitor listings where you have to go through all portraits one by one from the beginning and/or there were a lot!)
  • For those without a website see my blog post listed on my Major Art Competitions in the UK page
The Websites of Contemporary Painters in the UK - Get your website sorted BEFORE you enter a juried art competition or miss out on the traffic when the names of selected artists are announced!
The photos below are a mix of
  • portraits sent to me of work selected for this year's exhibition and 
  • images of artists with their portraits due to being selected for previous exhibits.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

BP Portrait Award 2017 - The Shortlist

The three artists shortlisted for the First Prize in the 38th BP Portrait Award are:
All the shortlisted portraits feature female sitters and are painted in three different media - egg tempera, oil and acrylic.  All the painters have previously had works selected for the BP exhibition. Each of them is guaranteed a prize - but only one has previously won a prize in this very prestigious art competition.

Below is a summary about each artist. The names of the first, second and third prizewinners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony, which will be on the evening of Tuesday 20th June. It must be nice to go to it as a shortlisted artist knowing the worst that can happen is you're coming away with a cheque for a considerable sum of money - somewhere between £8,000 and £30,000.

Tomorrow's blog post will be about the artists selected for the exhibition.  (Artists can start emailing me images of their portraits if they'd like to see them featured in the post)

The BP Portrait Award Exhibition will be on display at the following venues:
  • National Portrait Gallery, London all summer. It opens to the public on 22 June and continues until 24 September 2017 (Admission Free)
  • Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery Exeter (4 October – 3 December 2017); 
  • Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh (December 2017 – March 2018); 
  • Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens (March – June 2018.)

Artists shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2017

This highly successful annual event is aimed at encouraging artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work.
The prizes for this competition, which attracts entries from all over the world, are as follows
  • First Prize: £30,000 plus a commission worth £5,000 to paint a portrait for the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, to be agreed between the Gallery and the artist. 
  • Second Prize: £10,000 
  • Third Prize: £8,000.
In terms of the competition as a whole:
  • The Entry: The shortlist of three was selected from 2,580 portraits by artists from 87 countries (the entry is limited to one portrait per artist). 
  • Selected Artists: Tomorrow's blog post will be about who got selected for the exhibition. I'll be linking their websites to the names of the artists and doing a brief synopsis of the artist and their work.
  • The Best of the Rest: the closing date for How to enter my BP Portrait "Best of the Rest" 2017- of those not selected - is Friday.

Thomas Ehretsmann

Double Portrait by Thomas Ehretsmann
(300 x 400mm, Acrylic on board)
Age: 42 (Born in Mulhouse France in 06.07.1974)
Nationality: French
Occupation: artist and illustrator. His illustration work has been featured in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Elle Magazine.
Current home:
Art education: a degree in illustration from the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, Strasbourg
Previous appearances in this award: Vacuum 2 was selected for the BP Portrait Award 2016 exhibition
Title / Media: Double Portrait (300 x 400mm, Acrylic on board)
Subject: Double Portrait captures a moment when the artist was walking in the park with his wife, Caroline. The title, Double Portrait, suggest the passage from one state of being to another as Caroline was eight months pregnant at the time.
Ehretsmann was struck by the light on Caroline’s face which he said reminded him of the work of naturalist painters Jules Bastien-Lepage and Emile Friant. 
I met Thomas last year - see BP Portrait Award 2016 - Artists with their paintings - so this is the first year for me that I've met all three artists prior to the announcement!

This year, as last, his paintings comprises multiple layers of semi-transparent acrylic paint - painted in very small hatching marks. He's also a master of tone control in muted and darker passages of the painting.

I met Thomas last year at the preview

Benjamin Sullivan

I've had Ben Sullivan 'tagged' as a future BP Portrait First Prizewinner for as long as I've been writing this blog and covering this competition!

He paints absolutely beautifully and also captures extremely good likenesses of everybody he paints.

He's exhibited in every BP Portrait Exhibition every year since 2006. I love the fact that in addition to his regular commissions, he also paints his family. It was wonderful to finally meet up with Ginnie and Edith, their new baby, at last year's Awards Ceremony when Ben won 3rd Prize. She was such a big hit with everybody, I'm not in the least bit surprised in the choice for this year's portrait!
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