Thursday, April 19, 2018

Review: Monet and Architecture at the National Gallery

I highly recommend, if you're in London this summer, that you go and see Monet and Architecture at the National Gallery - until 29th July. 

The 75 paintings in the exhibition spans 1860 - 1912 and includes series paintings of Rouen, London and Venice and wonderful paintings of places he knew well in Normandy, Paris, the Netherlands and Italy.

Some 25% of the paintings are ones in private collections - making this probably the only time you will ever see them.

While I'm not 100% behind the curator's analysis of what the exhibition is about, I'm absolutely delighted that there are so many excellent paintings on display - including some of my all time favourites!

The thing is Monet did not paint architecture per se - not like those who simply love architecture. He didn't even paint "things". What he was painting was the light and colour around rather large equivalents of squares and oblongs - as per the famous quotation below.
Try to forget what objects you have before you - a tree, a house, a field, or whatever. Merely think, 'Here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow,' and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it gives you your own impression of the scene before you.
Rouen Cathedral series - dawn on the right (east) and sunset on the left (west)
It was an absolute joy to be able to see the Rouen series from a decent distance so you could admire  them all together.

However I doubt if you'll be able to do that once the hordes arrive - unless you make a point of going late in the day and waiting until almost everybody has left!

That's because I'm very sure this is going to be a very popular exhibition. The National Gallery has been able to assemble some world class paintings from public and private collections from all over the world. Some I have never seen before in exhibitions or books.

What follows is an introduction to the exhibition - with images to give you a sense of what it looks like - and a note of how the exhibition works

I must emphasise that no book and certainly no blog post can ever emulate the way these paintings when viewed face to canvas. Some of them are quite extraordinary.

The structure of the exhibition

The exhibition is in the galleries in the basement of the Sainsbury Wing - which always seems to be the favoured location for any exhibitions which have enormously valuable paintings! It's very secure.

There are three sections to the exhibition
  • The Village and the Picturesque (3 rooms)
  • The City and Modern (2 rooms)
  • The Monument and the Mysterious ( 2 rooms)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Call for Entries - Royal Society of Marine Artists 73rd Open Exhibition 2018

Digital Submission for the Royal Society of Marine Artists's (RSMA) 2018 Annual Exhibition in October 2018 is now open. 

Entries from non-members are welcome and you have until 12 noon on Friday 6 July 2018 to get your entry ready and upload it and complete your submission online
The RSMA seeks submissions of paintings, limited edition prints and sculpture that involve the sea and the marine environment, including harbours and shoreline, traditional craft and contemporary shipping, creeks, beaches, wildlife - in short anything that involves tidal water.
The exhibition is the premier event for the exhibition of contemporary marine art.

It's also an OPEN exhibition - which means artwork selected from the open entry will hang alongside artwork by members of the RSMA.

The exhibition will be held at the Mall Galleries on 11-20th October (10am - 5pm).
Last year it was a large exhibition with artwork with nearly 400 artworks in all three galleries with a good mix of artwork by members with that selected from the open entry across the galleries as a whole (i.e. no segregation!)

This exhibition regularly does well as it is also well attended by fans of marine life (i.e. people who own boats!). That said, people who own boats are always very quick to spot errors made by those not familiar with marine life!  I vividly remember standing looking at a painting one year with somebody who knew what he was talking about - and him commenting that the boat would capsize very fast in a swell! Proportions and details are everything for those who love their boats!

Last year's RSMA Annual Exhibition PV in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries
- home to more contemporary looking artwork
In addition:
  • the RSMA Friends' Evening will be on Tuesday 9th October (Ticket required. 5.30 – 7.30pm)
  • Private View on Wednesday 10th October (Invitation only. 11.00am – 8.00pm) - with 
    • a free guided tour of the exhibition by President Elizabeth Smith PRSMA starting at 11:30am.
    • Opening & awards presentation at 3.30pm with guest of honour.
The very first exhibition of the Society of Marine Artists was prevented from going ahead because of the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.  Its first exhibition was actually held in 1946 at the Guildhall Art Gallery in the City of London.  In 1966, 20 years after the first exhibition, the Society was granted its Royal Charter and became known as the Royal Society of Marine Artists. Exhibitions moved to the Mall Galleries in 1981
The subject matter of our paintings has gradually broadened over the years to encompass not only sea-going vessels, but yachts and dinghies, the coast and sea-shore, harbours, estuaries and tidal rivers – indeed anything that is essentially marine related.
 Last year I commented in my review
This exhibition has a major emphasis on paintings with an overall lean towards the blue/grey/green colour palette! By way of contrast, there is very little sculpture, drawings and fine art prints. The framing tends towards the traditional rather than contemporary. There's a tad too much gilt on show for my liking which I personally don't think suits paintings of boats!

Gilt tends to go with paintings of traditional ships from the past

The small works hung on the mezzanine wall
One thing worth noting last year is that this is an art society that now has a female President and more evidence of female artists not only getting their work selected but of also doing well in the exhibition (see my review post for more evidence of this)

Below you can find
  • a summary of how to enter the next annual exhibition.
  • a list of prizes
  • an archive of posts about past exhibitions - which contains lots of images of the type of artwork that gets selected for exhibition.

Call for Entries

The RSMA seeks submissions of art inspired by the sea and marine environment.
Artists are strongly urged to submit NEW work NOT PREVIOUSLY EXHIBITED.
If you want to get your artwork into an exhibition then it needs to very good and it needs to be NEW.

Three reasons why artwork regularly does not make it into an art exhibition are:
  • seen before - in another exhibition (the equivalent of dissing your host!)
  • not presented well (poor framing can undermine good painting - and it's not very "professional")
  • not dry (need one say more?)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Review: Portraiture - Big Painting Challenge 2018

Portraiture was the third genre to be tackled by The Big Painting Challenge (last night on BBC1 6pm). The setting - in the RAF's Centenary Year - was the RAF Museum at what used to be Hendon Aerodrome and the models were air cadets for the first challenge and RAF and WAAF Veterans for the Big Challenge.

I took a look online and there were a fair few (generally unfavourable) comparisons with the Portrait Artist of the Year programme broadcast by Sky Arts - which I guess is inevitable given the discrepancy in knowledge, experience and skills.
This week's blog post is going to include posts by the general public on Twitter as I detect a sea change in views about this programme which I think the BBC commissioners should pay serious attention to.

Leading up to the final judgement for somebody - at the RAF Museum
You can view the episode on iPlayer in Episode 3 of The Big Painting Challenge - and below is my digest/review of what happened in this week's episode

It follows on from my earlier posts:
These are the participants in their two teams for this week's episode. This year they seem to be switching people between the two mentors on a regular basis - although I don't remember that happening last year. It looks as if they swop one person with each episode. I guess that's to avoid a situation where one team gets left with too few painters.

Diana Ali's Team - Jane. Chris, Susan and Callum
Pascal Anson's Team - Oliver, Anil, Ray and Tilly
There were a fair few tensions within the teams
  • Oliver wanted to make sure he did himself justice as he normally paints portraits
  • Chris was really anxious as he had never ever painted a portrait before - on top of the fact that he has ocular albinism. I looked up the term this week - and now understand much better the problems it presents. (How do you judge somebody who can't see detail very well against those who can?)
  • Callum had also never painted anybody from life - having spent his time to date painting sweetie packets from photos.

The First Challenge

The First Challenge involved that most difficult of portraits - a young person - in this case two young air cadets - with very young faces.

The artists had to all use the same size of support, media of their own choice and they could bring their own art supplies from home.

I found some of the "soundbite" comments from the Mentors to be absolutely farcical.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Review: 206th Exhibition of Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours

As usual I very much RECOMMEND a visit to the Exhibition by the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours at the Mall Galleries which continues until 21 April 2018.

Main Gallery
I've been getting queries sent to me asking about my review post! I was late getting to the exhibition due to prior commitments and a period of complete immobility so had been following online. However I finally got there last Friday and the exhibition did not disappoint. Indeed it's head and shoulders above last year's exhibition of the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.

Threadneedle Gallery
North Gallery
I've also been getting comments from people saying they think it's the best one they've seen and that RI exhibitions have been getting better and better in recent times.

A very busy exhibition
The exhibition has been extremely well attended. That seems to be because of two things:
  • the RI has been making much better use of social media this year both beforehand and during the exhibition to show what's on display at the show and what's happening in the exhibition
  • there's a very extensive range of events and demonstrations during the course of the exhibition
Oddly, the website lacks a proper page for the exhibition and had no note of the events online. All the exhibition information is on the Mall Galleries website - including 
Anne McCormack demonstrating her curious technique on Friday
- watercolour on gesso with lots of gum arabic

Exhibition Metrics for 2017

This is a summary of the exhibition metrics for the annual exhibition in 2018

The exhibition includes 
  • 407 paintings by members and non-members were hung across the three galleries (405 if you discount the two paintings by HRH The Prince of Wales)
  • by 151 artists from 12 countries
  • 163 of works (40%) by 100 (66%) non-member artists were selected and hung in the exhibition.
  • 50 Members: averaged 4.88 works hung
  • 100 'Open' artists: averaged 1.63 works hung - although this included the people who were Candidates for Membership where the number of works hung varied between 2 and 4 paintings (I'm going to do a seperate post about Candidates to assist those wanting to see the level of work by those applying for full membership)
  • a lot of new sponsorship - and new prizes - you can see some of the Prizewinners below
Two interesting things to note are:
  • a new hardback book by the RI called "Then and Now" which provides an insight into the history of the RI and profiling its current members will be published in approx. 12 months time
  • the Victoria and Albert Museum have agreed to preserve the extensive collection of archive material from the foundation of the RI.

Other things I noticed

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Selected Artists and statistics - BP Portrait Award 2018

48 artists have had portraits selected for the BP Portrait Award 2018 - and this post is about them - and the statistics for this art competition.

See the names of the selected artists - organised by the country where they live at present - BELOW - plus:
  • links to their websites and social media sites (Facebook PAGES only)
  • a short profile / summary of their CV 
  • some photos of the artists and/or their portraits
Alastair Adams got his portrait of Bruce Robinson to me first!
painted to mark the 30th anniversary of "Withnail and I" which he wrote and directed
copyright Alastair Adams PPRP
But first some statistics - to see what an achievement it is to get selected for this exhibition!

BP Portrait Award 2018 - the statistics

In 2018:
  • 2,667 artists submitted a portrait as a digital image to the BP Portrait Award 2018. 
  • Of these 215 (8%) made it through the first stage assessment and got to hand deliver or courier their actual portrait for viewing by the Judging Panel- just up the road from where I live!
  • Of these just 48 (1.8%) have been selected for this prestigious annual exhibition - which will be seen by more than 250,000 people
In terms of geography, out of the 48 selected artists from all over the world
  • 25 portraits came from the UK - England, Scotland and Wales (52%) 
  • 23 portraits came from 84 other countries(48%)

BP Portrait Award 2018 - Selected Artists

Many congratulations to all those artists who have been selected for the exhibition.
Below are profiles of each artist from public information available online - organised according by the country where they live

If anything I've identified by way of websites, social media or bio information is WRONG 
please do get in touch and I will fix immediately.
  • Links to their websites are embedded in their names in the list below (where available). 
  • Previous selected artists are highlighted in red
  • Exhibits by previous shortlisted and award winners are identified in bold. Plus 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 
  • Tweets 
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 or contact me via my Facebook Page

Here are the Selected Artists

Artists are listed alphabetically by country - in alphabetical of the country.


  • Megan RoodenrysBorn in Canberra in 1968, currently resides in Adelaide, South Australia. Megan trained at the University of South Australia receiving her Bachelor of Visual Arts in 1997. Megan works with a wide range of mediums. 2009 Archibald Prize Finalist with "Waiting for the Day" - Portrait of Ben Cousins. Her paintings - I'm wondering if it's this one 



  • Alastair Adams PPRP - (see portrait at top of this post) Previously selected 1995 - Past President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters - and the youngest in the history of the RP. Holds a research based lecturing position at Loughborough University and has published papers on commissioned portraiture. Works to commission rather than exhibitions e.g. Commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery to paint a portrait of Tony Blair. His portrait (see top of post) is of Bruce Robinson, an English director and screenwriter. He wrote and directed the loosely autobiographical cult classic Withnail and I and wrote the screenplay for The Killing Fields. 2017 marked the 30th anniversary of Withnail and I
  • Oliver Bedeman -  a figurative painter living and working in London; Educated at a degree in Painting at Brighton University, then studied at the The Royal Drawing School where he subsequently taught drawing. His painting of his brother Tom, was selected for the 2016 Columbia Threadneedle Prize exhibition. He was also selected for the Threadneedle in 2018.  
  • Simon Thomas Braiden -  self taught artist born in Manchester in 1971. Early Flemish painting and 20th Century Modern Realist painting have been his main influences. He has exhibited extensively throughout the UK in both private and public galleries.
  • Shona Chew - selected BPPA 2011 - a self-taught artist based in south-east England.
  • Jamie Coreth - previously selected / won the BP Young Artist Award 2016 | brought up in Dorset and Wiltshire, prior to studying for a BA (Hons) degree in archaeology and anthropology at Keble College, Oxford. He then changed tracks and next studied at the London Atelier of Representational Art(LARA) and the Florence Academy of Art. His work has been seen in group exhibitions in London. This is an interesting article about him and his Dad who was his model for his 2016 portrait.  Represented by Fine Art Commissions.
  • JJ Delvine - previously selected exhibited BPPA  2011 AND exhibited BPPA 2006 | studied at the University of East Anglia and London Guildhall University. He has curated projects and events in London and Mexico City. Delvine’s work has been published and seen in numerous group and solo exhibitions in London, Berlin and Rotterdam
  • Phoebe Dickinson - Trained at: Charles H Cecil Studios, Florence Italy, Lavender Hill Studios, London, The Prince’s Drawing School and The Heatherley School of Fine Art. Studios in London and Gloucestershire. Appeared on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the year in 2013. Painting commissions documenting the making of Downton Abbey. Extensive press coverage.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Nature - Big Painting Challenge 2018

This post is about the Second Episode of the Big Painting Challenge 2018 which focused on:
  • Nature - painting dogs and trees
  • Alternative ways of handling paint
The group and tutors ready for The Big Painting Challenge Episode 2

It follows on from my earlier posts:
This episode is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for the next 27 days.
Nine painters continue in the artistic bootcamp, which this week sees themworking with their professional mentors, Diana Ali and Pascal Anson, to conquer paint-handling techniques to depict nature in all its glory.  BBC website

Continuing issues for me

Before I start I want to thank all those who took the trouble to comment on the blog posts and also on my Facebook Page where I post my blog posts once finished.  It's always really good to see if my comments resonate with others and also to get your own perspectives on how things are going - which might be summed up as Sky Arts 1 BBC 0.

Episode 2: Coherent or discontinuity

I'm having major problems with the format for the individual episodes. Last week we had two awful abortions masquerading as still life set-ups and went from those via two fast (but useful) exercises to a vast interior which was in some way supposed to be 'a big still life'.

Absolutely no teaching of perspective in the content of the programme - and then somebody gets sent home for not grasping that her perspective changes when her eyeline changes.

This week we have:
  • the reverse of still life - the two teams each had a dog to paint, neither of which was still for very long
  • exercises about how to use tools other than brushes to handle paint and make different sorts of marks
  • a discussion by Fraser Scarfe (who has morphed into a replacement of Lachlan Goudie) 
  • a big challenge about painting lots of trees - and leaves - and how best to represent these through the handling of paint

Teaching: Imperative vs. interrogative

I've still got my hackles raised over Diana's teaching style and tried this week to try and find the reason why.

I concluded that she instructs in a very imperative way - essentially "don't do that, do this" a.k.a. "my way is best". Plus she's just plain RUDE and says some completely outrageous things - a bit like a "shock jock"! (This coming from somebody who is renowned for being somewhat direct!)

It's not very energising - I'd absolutely hate to be in her group - in fact I'd walk and/or insist on being in the other one.

Diana's group gets its dressing down about the dog pics

It was interesting how Ray was swopped to Pascal this week after the the "don't use watercolour, use acrylic' imperative last week.

By way of contrast Pascal's instruction is much more carefully scripted and articulated - plus he asks questions "May I show you?"  I'm very definitely warming to him in this series.

Again, Daphne who everybody seems to think is an ogre - and who I think is just a plain-speaking who makes intelligent comments - is very interesting in the way she asks members of the group questions as she goes round the group.

At some point they will realise that she's actually asking them whether they have considered an aspect that might be worthy of consideration. There's an awful lot that both participants and the audience can learn from the questions she asks. She's very perceptive and perspicacious ie. almost always spot on!

I do think those who "parrot" comments about "her unfortunate manner" might want to bear in mind that their experience to date of painting tutors might be limited to those who say nice things to them all the time because they'd like them to keep paying fees for tuition!

Give me Daphne's feedback any time if you want to make some serious improvement as an amateur artist!

I liked Fraser Scarfe who stepped in for an absent Lachlan (of whom there was no mention). He also provided some sound assessment and judgement and was a nice foil for Daphne. (PS Do take a look at his website - he's got some paintings of trees featured!) His book is called How to Paint Atmospheric Landscapes in Acrylics - I've not seen it or read it - but it looks like the sort of book Ray might find very useful! :)

The First Challenge - doggies!

Ostensibly the next step up from painting something very still is painting something that moves.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Frank has gone and Sky still wants more Landscape Artists

Today Frank Skinner "retired" from Sky Arts Artist of the Year programmes being filmed this year.

In his place, it's just been announced that Stephen Mangan is to join Joan Bakewell as the new co-host on Portrait and Landscape Artist of the Year!

Which seems like good news to me (maybe Tamsin Greig will take over from Joan Bakewell in due course?)

However they are also interested in more applications from landscape artists re. the upcoming landscape version of artist of the year.

Do you, or someone you know, have what it takes to become the next Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year?

Sky Arts at still on the lookout for applications from good quality amateur and professional artists for this year's competition - and the deadline for  applications: 12pm Friday 11th May 2018

The First Prize is a £10,000 commission to paint a landscape for a major British institution and £500 of Cass Art materials.

I wrote about the Call for Entries back in March - see Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2017 - call for entries

For those who have not seen it here is a link to episode 1 of series 3 to give you a flavour of what’s involved:

You also have the opportunity to be a a spectator at the heats
For more information about the competition and being  visit:

PS If you are wondering what's happened to my review of Episode 2 of the BBC Big Painting Challenge - Nature - I'm otherwise engaged with preparation for a lecture on international trade tomorrow. (I kid you not!). So hopefully back on track with reviews soonish.

Monday, April 09, 2018

BP Portrait Award 2018 - The Shortlist

Four artists - three women and a man - have been shortlisted for the First Prize in the 39th BP Portrait Award. They are:
  • An Angel At My Table - Miriam Escofet’s portrait of her mother, 
  • Time Traveller, Matthew Napping - Felicia Forte painting of her partner Matthew DeJong asleep in bed (Instagram)
  • A Portrait Of two Female Painters - Ania Hobson's paintig includes a self-portrait and a portrait of her sister in law, Stevie Dix, and 
  • Simone - Zhu Tongyao’s portrait of his Italian neighbour.

An Angel At My Table by Miriam Escofet © Miriam Escofet; Time Traveller, Matthew Napping by Felicia Forte © Felicia Forte; A Portrait of two Female Painters by Ania Hobson © Ania Hobson; Simone by Zhu Tongyao © Zhu Tongyao

The BP Portrait Award 2018

The winner of the £35,000 BP Portrait Award will be announced on 11th June 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

It must be nice to go to an awards ceremony 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 £9,000 and £35,000.

The prizes for this competition, which attracts entries from all over the world, are as follows
  • First Prize: £35,000 plus a commission worth £7,000 to paint a portrait for the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection, to be agreed between the Gallery and the artist. 
  • Second Prize: £12,000 
  • Third Prize: £10,000.
  • The BP Young Artist Award: £9,000 - to one selected artist aged between 18 and 30 (i.e. born 1988 and after - which means you can work out which shortlisted artists are NOT eligible for this award)
That's a prize post of £66,000 - this is a serious prestigious exhibition from an international perspective.

In terms of the competition as a whole:
  • Purpose: This highly prestigious competition aims to encourage international artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work.
  • The Entry: The shortlist of four was selected from 2,667 (+ 87) portraits by artists from 88 (+1) countries 2,580 87 countries (the entry is limited to one portrait per artist). 
  • Selected Artists: I shall also be publishing a blog post about the 47 artists whose portraits were also got selected for the exhibition. I'll be doing a brief synopsis of the artist and their work and highlighting their websites. (Why would the Judges choose c.6-8 fewer artists than usual is the question we'll all be pondering over in the next few days!)
Later this week I will start my post profiling the 44 other artists also selected for the exhibition. This year the total number of portraits/artists selected for the exhibition is 48 - which is significantly fewer than usual - even when the exhibition has included enormous portraits.
The BP Portrait Award Exhibition will be on display at the following venues:
It's the 39th year of the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery and the 29th year of sponsorship by BP. 

Artists shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2017

BELOW you can find PROFILES for each of the shortlisted artists

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 - Call for Entries

The  First Prize for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 has been reduced!
Somehow or other the Sunday Times and the organisers both forgot to mention this in the newspaper, the blog post, the Facebook posts or any of the tweets to date about the call for entries! See below for more details in the Call for Entries section. 

The deadline for the 2018 entry is 5pm, 25 June 2018

Viewing last year's exhibition of the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibion

Inevitably, a reduction in the top price will mean allegations that the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition is being devalued.  Once the top prize drops below £10,000 it no longer ranks alongside some of the top painting prizes around the world - and drops out of the Premier Division.

Maybe it's time for a new sponsor? After all the Sunday Times took over from Singer & Friedlander after the Icelandic banking collapse.

Who else remembers the "good old days" when "the Singer & Friedlander" was a really excellent watercolour competition with "top notch prizewinners"?

Personally I always think it's a HUGE mistake to pretend something hasn't changed. You simply MUST address "the elephant in the room" - which in this instance appears to be the diminishing interest on the part of the The Sunday Times. This is possibly due to the need to cut costs due to the continuing decline in sales and advertising coupled with the lack of a proper journalist covering art.

(My version of addressing last year's "elephant" was to pointedly refuse to do a prizewinners post last year after what won First Prize i.e. a painting which could have been hung in the annual exhibition of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters!! I wrote What does "watercolour" mean to you? and 10 Best Paintings in the Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition instead!)

Maybe it's time to give this very old competition a chance to revert to what it was in the past - an excellent competition for those who painted in "proper watercolour" - much loved by very many art fans in the UK and oodles of amateur artists.

I for one would be extremely pleased to see a brand new sponsor with funds that would also support it reverting to the standards of its Singer & Friedlander days when people like Leslie Worth (sublime watercolour painter!) and Jennifer McRae used to win.  As of 2017 it was a heavily compromised competition and exhibition which in my opinion had been undermined by its judges.

Call for Entries: Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018

Anyway, back to this year and this competition. Every year I do a blog post about the CALL FOR ENTRIES for - and this is it!

(I am not in the least bit surprised to see this painting used for publicity - they could hardly use last year's first prizewinner and hope for a decent entry!)

Below you will find - for the 2018 competition:
  1. Exhibition - a summary of venue and number of paintings to be exhibited
  2. Summary of the prizes, selection process and the judges (but not much!)
  3. a summary of the entry process
    • who can enter 
    • what you can enter 
    • how to enter 
    • the timetable 
  4. brief reflections on past competitions
  5. tips for those thinking of entering this prestigious watercolour competition; and
  6. plus links to all the blog posts I've written in previous years about the exhibition, who won prizes and who got selected - and links to their websites!


A maximum of 100 works will be exhibited at the Mall Galleries, London.
The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Exhibition will be displayed at the Mall Galleries, London from 17 – 23 September 2018 (Admission is FREE). It's unclear whether there will be any tour given the other sponsor (Smith and Williamson) has also pulled out.

Realistically the exhibition has not reached 100 paintings for quite some time. It's oscillated between mid 70s and low 90s in recent years.

By way of contrast, for the same entry fee, you can see 150+ paintings in water-based media at the Mall Galleries right now - selected from the open submision - in the 206th annual exhibition (total 400+ paintings) of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. It seems very likely that you have a better chance of being exhibited in this much bigger exhibition which also draws the crowds.

SELECTION and Judges Panel

The job of the judges is to select around about one hundred works in watercolour that reflect the true breadth of the medium but it partly depends on size and how much of the galleries are hired for the competition.

The 2018 judging panel has NOT yet been invited/selected/whatever
EXCEPT, according to the website, it includes "Louis Wise, Critic and Writer, The Sunday Times".
EXCEPT that I'm not sure he knows much about art (as opposed to music and film), is now freelance and no longer an employee of the Sunday Times and has yet to master social media!

The announcement of the prizewinners is generally in advance of the exhibition.

PRIZES and prizewinners

Shame about the prize money....
Open to all UK-based artists, the competition offers a generous range of prizes including a first prize of £6,000, a second prize of £3,000 and a third prize of £1,000. The Sunday Times 1 April 2018
There again last year's STWC first prizewinner had the LEAST press coverage of any  that I've ever known - and I go back quite a few years!

In 2018, the winners will be announced in the Culture section of The Sunday Times and the prizes are:
  • a First Prize of £6,000 (i.e. a reduction of £4,000 on 2017 and equivalent to the second prize in £2016)
  • Second Prize of £3,000 (reinstated - after being eliminated in 2017 - but a reduction of £3,000 on the second prize awarded in 2016)
  • Third Prize of £1,000 - substitutes for the Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize eliminated  last year after the sponsor pulled out.
  • The following comes across to me as "we're trying hard"!
In addition, there will be a range of other prizes on offer to artists.
The trend is for less rather than more. In 2017, the prizes were a First Prize of £10,000 plus the Jackson’s Young Artist Award worth £500. They had eliminated the second prize of £6,000 which was last awarded in 2016. The Smith & Williamson Cityscape Prize was dropped last year when they stopped being a sponsor and the Cover Prize went in 2015. Like I said - no mention of any changes.....

The CALL FOR ENTRIES - Process and Key Points

Here is a summary of the KEY POINTS
Artists are invited to submit up to four works in any water-based medium...  Entry is £15 per work
  • The deadline for submissions 5pm, 25 June 2018 
  • Entry for the 2017 competition is digital and ONLINE
  • Your digital file for submission needs to be 300 dpi with a file size of 500kb or less 
  • This is the official website. Plus these are the rules and these are the FAQs
  • The top prize is £6,000 (reduced from last year)
  • You'll find out on , via email, whether or not your painting has been selected for the final judging in front of the selection panel. 
  • You review the images from past exhibitions (see blog posts reviewing past SWC exhibitions at the end of this post) 
  • you review the Facebook Page for the competition - which demonstrates the diversity of ways in which watercolour can be used 
  • Have a go and enter two works 
  • The cost relative to the achievement and the experience is negligible 

Who can enter

  • The competition is open to all artists born or currently resident in the UK - who are making paintings using water-based media 
  • There are no age limits for artists wishing to enter. 

What you can enter

Eligible media includes:
  • any water-based media
  • this includes acrylic, inks and gouache 
In response to an FAQ (my bold)
Yes, any water-based media is acceptable. Artists should note that whilst any water-based mediums are acceptable, this competition aims to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the genre of watercolour painting. The judges will therefore be looking for work that makes the most imaginative or otherwise impressive use of a water based medium in this respect
Except the Judges didn't appear to do this last year - given the the Last Painting to win the £10,000 First Prize was trying very hard to look like an oil painting and in no way, shape or form could be said to look like a watercolour.

My view is that:
  • This competition for its (past) prestigious reputation based on excellent watercolour paintings (made with the NON-plastic NON-polymer related stuff which comes in pans and tubes) 
  • This competition is very popular with the public who all expect to a lot of "proper" watercolour paintings - demonstrating the range of ways you can use traditional watercolour paint (i.e. NOT how to make watercolour look like oil paint!)
  • If the judges don't choose lots of good and "proper" watercolour paintings then they just make the sponsoring brand look  REALLY STUPID!
Last year I expected the final selection to include other water-based media - however I would also expect that it will be exceptional and other media will not dominate traditional watercolour paint.
Below is a table of the the media submitted last year. Less than half the paintings are traditional pure watercolour paint only.

Watercolour and gouache
Watercolour and ink
Watercolour and pencil
Gouache and watercolour
Acrylic and watercolour
Acrylic and pigment
Watercolour, Japanese ink and gilding/metal powders
Watercolour ink and gesso
Watercolour collage
Watercolour and water based mediums
Watercolour and inktense pencils
Watercolour and acrylic
Gouache, collage and pencil

I RECOMMENDTake them at their word. Don't be boring! Show them what watercolour can do....


First round submit a digital image and pay a fee (£15 per entry)
Review: a sift and sort selection process produces a list of works which need to be seen in person by the Judges. Whether this sift and sort is done by the Judges.......

Label for a painting submitted to Second Round

Proceed to Second Round (Judges view paintings in person): you will be supplied with
Final Judging Work Labels and Final Judging Submission Form and need to bring or send the artwork to London (to arrive on 1 July) for the second round of judging by the Panel of Judges.
a maximum of 250 shortlisted artists will then be invited to deliver their actual works on 15 July 2018, from 10 – 4pm and 16 July 2018, from 10 – 5pm, to the Federation of British Artists (FBA)

  • This is where you can lose out through bad presentation or inappropriate framing which will drown other work. Don't be loud!
  • Very often some artists have more than one work selected so it's generally less that 100 artists - which is why it can be worth submitting two works - because if they like your work they might take two!

2018 Timeline


  • 25 June Deadline for online entries, by 5pm


  • 4 July Email to artists - advising of the outcome of the Round 1 (initial review of works entered) 
  • Friday 14 or Saturday 15 July (between 10am - 5pm) Shortlisted artists must submit works to FBA (on this date) 
  • 21 & Saturday 22 July 2017 (between 10am-5pm):  works not accepted for exhibition will be available for collection from the FBA (rear of the Mall Galleries)  


  • 17 – 23 September 2018 Exhibition at Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1 10am-5pm


2017 - 87 paintings by 78 artists were selected from 1,057 submissions.
2016 - 75 paintings by 66 artists were selected
2015 - 90 works by 80 artists were selected
2014 - 93 works by 73 artists from across the UK