Saturday, October 14, 2017

Awards and CBMs at the Society of Botanical Artists Annual Exhibition 2017

This week "Changing Seasons" the 2017 Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists opened at Central Hall Westminster in London. Admission is free and it's on every day 11am-5pm until Saturday 21st October.

Entrance to the exhibition - at the end of the Private View

For the last ten years I have reviewed the annual exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists on this blog - see my PAGE dedicated to botanical art and artists and past posts about the SBA exhibition (in the top menu of pages)

In 2015 I set up my new website Botanical Art and Artists - complete with a dedicated news blog.

Two years later it's beginning to rival Making A Mark for numbers of visitors and pageviews AND - according to an Alexa analysis of similar sites - is now the top website for botanical art in the world!

Consequently I now focus my blog posts for the dedicated botanical art fan on that site - however I know there are a lot of fans who have not made the move over.

The Awards Ceremony at the Private View with Jekka McVicar presenting awards

So here for you are the my first two out of three posts about this year's exhibition.

Thursday was the PV and on Friday I posted about the botanical artists receiving Awards - Society of Botanical Artists' Annual Exhibition 2017. It includes images of the artwork receiving awards and more information about the artists (links to their websites are embedded in their names).

This morning I've posted about those awarded a Certificate of Botanical Merit in Society of Botanical Art 2017 - Certificates of Botanical Merit

My final post tomorrow will  comprise:
  • a review of the exhibition as a whole and 
  • a commentary on its development over the last decade that I have been writing reviews of this exhibition.
This year it includes 457 artworks covering paintings, drawings, miniatures, fine art prints and botanical ED works in glass and jewellery.

A view of the exhibition which embraces a range of styles and media for portraying plants

So, for those of you who have been reading this week's very popular post about Watercolour paintings of flowers sell well - maybe it's time to find out what you're missing!

You've got a week left to visit this very popular exhibition.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Watercolour paintings of flowers sell well

Flower paintings are hugely popular with the public. Watercolour paintings of flowers also sell well - particularly when executed by experts.

I find it such a pity that leading open exhibitions of watercolour paintings (by the RWS, RI and Sunday Times Watercolour Competition) don't include more paintings of plant life in general and flowers in particular.

I'd love to know why there's a dearth of flower paintings in watercolour shows - when some of the best watercolour painters in the country paint flowers!

I can't help but think that this is down to one of three reasons
  • Panels of Judges who don't like, don't understand or don't rate flower or botanical paintings - and don't care what the public like!
  • Well regarded flower painters and botanical artists who don't enter open exhibitions and art competitions for watercolour paintings - because their work doesn't get a good reception. (I've heard this story so many times re experiences in the past)
  • Or it just doesn't occur to artists who paint flowers to show their work outside a friendly environment - which is typically one which involves a lot of women! (I spend a lot of my time encouraging those who create artwork about plants and flowers to enter open exhibitions and competitions - and those that do generally do well, except when they come up against a panel of judges who make some very odd decisions eg STWC in 2017.)
My own view is it's probably a combination of the above.

This will never change until great flower painters who produce excellent work start entering the open exhibitions of other art societies and art competitions.

Here are two exhibitions in London this week.

Watercolour paintings by Rosie Sanders
The first is the Rosie Sanders: Secret Letters Exhibition at Jonathan Cooper's Park Walk Gallery just off the Fulham Road in Chelsea. (Prices are between £3,800 and £18,000). 16 out of the 26 paintings had sold when I visited on Tuesday this week. More will have sold before the exhibition closes on Saturday.

This is a video of my walk round the exhibition on Tuesday this week.



Rosie is yet another female painter who ALWAYS paints what she loves and ALSO knows how to create and present work which sells (see blog posts at the end re other women who've had virtually sell out shows in the recent past)

As a result Rosie has a solo show at this gallery every 1-2 years. (Note: Jonathan also shows other artists covered on Making A Mark in the past - who have won the BP Portrait Award and the ING Discerning Eye competition)

It's simply not the case that watercolour paintings don't get shown by galleries or, alternatively, don't find buyers (see yesterday's post). The issue is the image that is created and the expertise used in creating that image....

The second exhibition is Changing Seasons - the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists which has its Private View today and opens to the public tomorrow until Saturday 21 October. It's open every day 11am to 5pm and I'm expecting to see some excellent work.

However most of these artists will never dream of showing outside group shows organised by those who understand their work.

I'm off to see this exhibition shortly (it's at Central Hall, Westminster - opposite Westminster Abbey) and will be highlighting prizewinners and reviewing the exhibition on my botanical art news blog on my website Botanical Art and Artists later this week.

[Note: This website is fast catching up with Making A Mark in terms of traffic - because that's how popular this sort of art is!]

Those who are smart can do both exhibitions in one day this week!


More women artists who know how to paint what they love and sell it!

Three more women artists who have organised and held their own solo shows and sold virtually all the work
plus another botanical artist who has had a very successful solo show of watercolour paintings of flowers in Chelsea Fiona Strickland exhibition at Park Walk Gallery

All the artists share an ability to understand that they have to create their own future. Others can help them - but they have to make it happen!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2018 - Call for Entries

This post is for ALL watercolour painters - wherever you live - who are interested in submitting their watercolour paintings to the art competition run each year by the Royal Watercolour Society.


The Royal Watercolour Society invites submissions for the 2018 Contemporary Watercolour Competition 
  • Entry to the 2018 competition opened on Monday 9 October 2017
  • The deadline for digital submission of entries is Monday 15 January 2018, 12 midnight 
  • The exhibition will be in March 2018 at the Bankside Gallery (next to Tate Modern).
This post is a commentary on some of the very significant issues associated with this competition in the recent past and an overview of the Call for Entries. It covers
  • my preamble and commentary on how this competition has changed in the last five years - and my hopes that it is now turning a corner under a new President
  • the prizes
  • the judges
  • who can enter
  • how to enter
  • the exhibition

Monday, October 09, 2017

Two different approaches to art society events in the UK and USA

This post is about a contrast between national art societies:
  • in two different countries (the UK and USA - but this is probably applicable to others too) 
  • of different sizes - with an impact on the ease and expense of getting around 
  • with different approaches to getting together as members
  • and different associated costs to those members
It happens to be about botanical art. However, this post really could have easily been about ANY media or subject based art society.  

Hopefully it's also a prompt for national art societies in the UK to start "thinking outside the box" in terms of what's possible - and maybe what artists want of an art society?




I'm not quite sure how this happened - but this year the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists in Westminster is taking place at the exact same time as the Annual Conference of the American Society of Botanical Artists in San Francisco!

For me the arrangements of annual exhibition and the conference events exemplify the difference between the annual exhibitions of UK art societies and associated events and the conference approach of the USA Art Societies.

The latter is driven somewhat by the fact that actually getting people together from different states involves a lot of travelling and people staying over - and hence EXPENSE!

Hence to justify the time, effort and expense, there needs to be an extensive programme of events and workshops by first rate instructors and professional representatives - which means some of these events are not cheap!

However one of the interesting aspects of this strong educational emphasis behind such conferences is that they also start to attract people from other countries around the world as well as those from around the USA!

Interestingly, this week, there are also going to be quite a few Brits delivering sessions at the ASBA Conference!  So the international flavour of that Conference very much extends to tutors as well as participants!

To be honest, I've met more than a few artists at the Private Views and visits to national art society over the last decade (OK - I've met LOTS!) who have wished that Art Societies in the UK would make much more of an effort to develop an annual conference in addition to an annual exhibition.

One of the reasons why people think this would be a good idea is that such an event can be held anywhere in the country and gets away from the London-centric tenor of annual exhibitions by national art societies.  That then has the potential to increase participation by people who live outside the London and Home Counties

Who knows, if such conferences got off the ground they might then attract both registered participants and tutors from outside the UK!  Just as happens in the USA!

Anyway - enough of the theory and back to what's happening this week

Saturday, October 07, 2017

What's the biggest question facing artists today?

The Guardian ran an article on Thursday called What's the biggest question facing artists today? The article makes for interesting reading - as do the comments

I liked Tacita Dean's intelligent comment and Maria Balshaw also nailed it. However the best one for me came from Touria El Glaoui - and apparently I discerned a key theme of the comments without realising it and before I read them.
It’s a question of security in your career: how to be true to yourself while surviving in a commercial market. 
To which one commenter responded - and got the most "likes"
If you can't earn enough to live on, it's not a career, it's a hobby. Most of us don't expect taxpayers to fund their hobbies, so why should artists?
For those who'd like to make a serious comment - out of the limelight - you can respond via the Guardian's survey form - Calling all artists: what are the biggest issues that concern you?

An analysis of the comments


Leaving aside the comments from "the names" in the article, below you can find my analysis of the comments on the article FROM ARTISTS

Auguste Rodin, Le Penseur,
plaster on wood platform
Musée d'art moderne
et contemporain de Strasbourg
Some points as to how I tackled my summary as a preamble:
  • I've left out most of the grumpiness and whining about why somebody has not made it and have focused on the people who actually attempted to answer the question. 
  • I've also left out the posturing and pseuds' corner stuff
  • Some people were totally incapable of answering this particular question - by providing a question - so I had to paraphrase quite a few. Those people may not agree with how I paraphrased.
  • The comments also provide an insight into the inability of some artists to actually focus on a topic and their total self-obsession with themselves. The ability of some to wax on about the small scale/parochial or global/political - and especially themselves - beggars belief.
I clicked on this article hoping to read something about their ideas. Most talked about how to get paid.
I think as a result of reading through all the comments, my question might be "When are artists going to get their act together?

Or the same point from another perspective - another person put it like this
The biggest 'problem' facing those who (generally) self-define at 'artists' is relevance to the rest of humanity. Not 'what's in it for me?', but 'what's in it for everyone else?'.

 What's the biggest question facing artists today?

I've tried to categorise the comments - literal and paraphrased - in order to try and highlight what are the major concerns of artists.

Without a doubt the main concerns that occupies many artists are

  • how to get paid for their art so they can go on being an artist
  • how to produce art that is authentic and persuade people that what they are doing is good - and should be supported.
  • how to break into the circle of elite artists/galleries/funders
What appeared to concern some of those who are maybe not artists is.....
  • why should artists assume the world owes them a living?


The oldies are the goodies


  • "What is art?" is a perennial (but didn't get asked a lot)
  • As is "What the hell is that meant to be?"
  • The biggest question for any artist - after the obvious ones of how do I pay the rent and feed myself etc. - is " Am I being true to myself?"
  • How to have enough money if (your) art is not immediately popular?
  • How to be true to yourself and produce authentic art at the same time as being able to eat and have a roof over your head?
  • How can we use our work to help create a new economy for the common good?'
  • Will my art last?
  • The biggest question facing artists today is the same as it ever was - what is my work worth, and will the buyers who snapped it up yesterday still do so tomorrow.

Being an Artist


  • How much more would this world be enriched if those that are starving have enough to eat, and to produce art for everyone to enjoy?
  • How do you reconcile the statement "everyone is an artist" and the purported push from the left for democracy, inclusivity and diversity, with the special social (and funding) designation for 'artist' and 'art'? How do reconcile the lack of any real parameters around art (aesthetics, content, skill) and your assertion that artists are 'special' and think in a different way? What would you be measuring this 'difference' against, given that the doors to 'anything goes' have been open for fifty years? 
  • Why are only the rich making art, filling art institutions, becoming musicians, acting?
  • For most artists, it's 'How on earth you scrape together any kind of living?'
  • What is wrong with supporting your art with the work that real people must do?
  • How to keep getting away with it?

Art Patrons / Collectors


  • If everybody can quite readily declare themselves an artist (which they can and do), who are the patrons? 
  • Why does it seem the audience for art is getting smaller?

Art Education


  • Why is art education is being neglected by universities?

Art Funding


  • Why does funding for the arts flow to the chosen few?
  • Why not ask the 99% of artists that are shut out of the "art market", shut out from funding, shut out from galleries, both private and public?

Marketing Art


  • When are artists other than the exalted and chosen few that dominate the market going to get access to the limelight?
  • Why have we lost faith in the current art gallery system?
  • How not to be robbed by the art world? (the answer to that is, keep them guessing).
  • Why has "craving attention at all costs" replaced appreciation of aesthetic beauty?
  • When you're "on the outside looking in" what's the best way to get your art seen?
  • "Which dumb brainteaser am I going to sell as art this year to people who wouldn't know real art if it bit them on the ass but have impressive collections of modern money?"

The best comment? Well this one in my opinion is worth a reread.
All the anguish seems to be about squaring the circle between 'authenticity' and commercial necessity as an artist. But you don't need to be an Artist to do art. You can be a plumber, a pediatrician, a park ranger, and do art. Plenty of people always have and still do. But they are 'amateur' - one of the most corrupted words in the lexicon - and do not count. 
and this is also the reality for some people
Show me an artist who isn't concerned about getting paid, and I'll show you a hobbyist with a private pension.
_______________________________________________________

For those artists wanting to get their act together and sell some art so they can keep on making art can I refer you to my website Art Business Info for Artists. It certainly does NOT have all the answers (for one thing I'm still building it!) - however I've now been told by a number of both professional and aspiring artists that it does provide some very useful insights into the process of moving from creating art to creating an art career.