Monday, February 27, 2017

Review: The Big Painting Challenge - Episode 3 (Animals)

Episode 3 of the The Big Painting Challenge was painting animal antics and they were at Whipsnade Zoo.  They seemed to enjoy a bit of sun in contrast to the previous four seasons in one day experience of Hastings!

The First Challenge

As always, the first challenge was two hours. The aim was to capture a flamingo on canvas. Obviously, the notion that the media used was the artist's choice (from the first week) has gone out the window and we're back to oils and acrylics.

Flamingos at Whipsnade Zoo
The judges were looking for them to:
  • give their animals a sense of life
  • accuracy through observation
  • avoiding a cliche interpretation of a flamingo
Early in the programme, I thought David Dibosa was seriously losing touch with reality
It's all too easy to use cliches, but to actually look at a flamingo and turn that into a convincing painting, that's very difficult indeed.
As if we all walk around with cliche caricatures of flamingos in our heads all the time?

If it was a cat or dog I might understand the point - but flamingos? Really? (PS Suman found one later!)

It began to make sense when the cliche/caricature theme kept coming up throughout the programme. I came to the conclusion he was just parroting a pre-agreed theme rather than telling us his own thoughts.

The other really irritating nonsensical comment he made was during the judging.
It's a portrait and by deciding to make it a portrait we get a sense of character to give it the spark of life which is the thing we were really looking for
Obviously he's fixated with criteria and has never seen a portrait which portrays somebody dead from the neck up. It's NOT the genre of portraiture that gives the spark of life, it's an artist's talent, skill and experience!

So far I'm totally at a loss as to why he's a judge of a challenge/competition like this which basically focuses on the development of basic painting skills by amateur artists.

While he does make some intelligent comments, he frequently comes up with comments about the paintings which are completely at odds with the other judges who are actual professional artists. I back Daphne and Lachlan - I know them both personally and, although they won't always agree with one another on everything, they are both practising artists and both know what they are talking about! By way of contrast, I looked up David Dibosa's CV again and there's not a jot of practical experience as an artist in it. He's an academic, an art historian and a curator and while I might be very happy with him taking up the cudgels with Andrew Graham Dixon, I really don't see what he has to add to this programme for amateur artists - apart from possibly meeting the BBC's diversity challenge.

This interview with him summed up to me why he is so wrong for this programme - he simply hasn't got a clue about amateur artists or what sort of messages they need to hear!
Was it tough being a judge?
It was more serious than I expected it to be. I thought it would be more light-hearted but the contestants were so passionate about their art that it varied from shock and surprise when they got through to distraught contestants in tears when they didn’t.
Would you like to do more TV judging?
Yes! It’s fascinating to see amateur artists progress at that speed. It would be a pleasure to do something similar. I also loved the glamour and being made a fuss of – it’s a luxury having someone always checking you’re looking your best!
However, I come back to the query I raised last week as to why does this programme need SEVEN people other than the participant artists on screen?

Friday, February 24, 2017

RHS Botanical Art Show 2017

The RHS Botanical Art Show 2017 is open to the public today and tomorrow at the RHS Lindley Hall in Westminster.  Admission is free. I was at the Preview last night.

Bridget Gillespie with her RHS Gold Medal Winning exhibition of Root Vegetables: Lifecycle  
standing next to Beetroot Beta vulgaris which has won the 'Best Painting in Show' award
at the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017
In future, all blog posts about botanical art exhibitions are going to be on my website dedicated to Botanical Art and Artists - specifically on the News blog 

You can get every blog post emailed to you 

Best Exhibit in Show - Pandanus by Mariko Ikeda from Japan
Posts about the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017 to date are as follows:
Please join me on the Botanical Art and Artists News Blog for more about:
  • who won which medal
  • my review of the exhibition
  • top tips from RHS Gold Medal winners about how to exhibit at the RHS and do well
  • interviews with the RHS Gold Medal Winners
  • and this year, for the first time, hopefully a video!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

118th Annual Exhibition of the Pastel Society 2017

I went to the Private View of 118th Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society at the Mall Galleries on Monday.  It's different this year - and I'll highlight the reasons why below. The exhibition continues until 3pm on Saturday 4th March.

A lot of people attended the Private View
This is the first year of the new President Jeanette Hayes who seems to have had a very positive impact in terms of changes made to date. I'm certainly liking what I'm seeing.  You can read an interview with her in last October's edition of The Pastel Society Newsletter (available to download from their website)
the Society is currently enjoying real momentum, thanks very largely to the efforts of recent Presidents. I think it is really important to maintain that momentum. 
The Exhibition was opened by The Right Honourable Michael Portillo who entertained the very large numbers at the PV with his speech.

The Right Honourable Michael Portillo opens
The 118th Annual Exhibition of The Pastel Society 2017
at the Private View on Monday.
On the right is Jeannette Hayes, the new President of the Pastel Society

Exhibition metrics - and the Open Entry

First some numbers for the benefit of those hoping to exhibit at future exhibitions.

There are 271 works in the exhibition

So far as the OPEN ENTRY is concerned..

OPEN ENTRY: 785 works were submitted by non-members for this Open Exhibition
  • 100 artworks selected from the open entry by 69 non-members
  • The ratio of members' work to non-members is 63:37 
  • The average number of paintings per non-member artist selected is 1.4.  
    • A number have two works selected
    • Those who are serious contenders to become full members have 3 or 4 works selected meaning that the majority of exhibiting non-members only have 1 artwork selected.
  • Open entries selected for exhibition: percentage selected is 12.7%. meaning...
    • Most artists have somewhere between 5-10% chance of getting an individual entry selected - based on fact some artists have 2 or 3 works selected. 
    • (Comparison: RA Summer Exhibition - chance of getting a work selected = 6.2-6.6%)
    • Probably the best way of improving your chances of getting selected is submitting more than one very good artwork in eligible media
I forgot to ask how many entries were received but will do that so I can highlight what percentage of entries were selected for the exhibition. [UPDATE: Now received and added in above]

Changes in the Gallery

The changes in the exhibition are subtle but incrementally they add up to a pleasing change in content.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Interviews with RHS Botanical Art Gold Medallists - from the UK and Europe

At the end of this week, the RHS Botanical Art Show 2017 opens in London in the RHS Lindley Hall.

This post contains interviews with five artists who won RHS Gold Medals for their botanical art in 2016.

I've been writing about the RHS Botanical Art Shows on this blog since 2007. In future, all my reviews about the RHS Botanical Art Shows and interviews with the artists will be on the blog on my dedicated website Botanical Art and Artists. (This has grown traffic fast and now gets two-thirds of the traffic that Making A Mark gets. Also, Alexa's 'similar sites' tool now ranks it as the top website in the world for botanical art!)

You can subscribe get every blog post emailed to you when you Subscribe to Botanical Art & Artists - News by Email

Interviews with RHS Botanical Art Gold Medallists in 2016

Now for the explanation behind this post!

In 2016, there were 13 Gold Medallists and I had to really rethink my normal strategy of including all the interviews with Gold Medallists in one blog post.

After the show, I wrote a number of blog posts about:
Then added their photos and mini-bios to my website pages about Botanical Artists in the UK and Europe and Asia and Australia and Africa....

....and completely FORGOT (I was pooped!) to write up the interviews with the five artists winning Gold Medals who lived in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK! Whoops!

So one year later here it is!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review: The Big Painting Challenge - Episode 2 (Landscapes)

The Big Painting Challenge was out of the studio and down in Hastings for Episode 2 Landscapes, aka as The Big Battle of Painting Hastings.

This is about:
  • what happened next - when the contestants tackled plein air painting
  • the learning points in relation to what mentors advised
  • the learning points in terms of what contestants did
Readers will recall this series of programmes is all about how to Learn, Improve and Grow as an artist.

Review of the landscape paintings after the big painting challenge

The First Challenge

The first test is another Perspective Challenge - they're painting the Pier!
  • this time their challenge involved working outdoors and plein air painting from observation (which always comes as a bit of a shock to those who've never tried it before!)
  • It involves rendering the straight lines and diminishing perspective of Hastings' newly refurbished pier.
The challenges are identified as being about 
  • scale, 
  • perspective and 
  • proportion.
I took one look at the view and dropped my jaw. It's not an easy subject even for experienced painters.

Hastings Pier from the promenade a big plastic tent

The BBC and the judges forgot to identify for viewers that the real challenge was painting plein air!

I really don't know how people can get involved in programmes like this without it occurring to them that it might be a good idea to give themselves a bit of a head start by getting some practice in by trying to paint plein air.

As it happens the weather conditions would have challenged even those with experience.

It was wet and rainy and blustery passed off by one of the tutors as being "a little bit of wind and rain" when clearly even the camera crew were more than a bit challenged by the weather! I wrote down "HORRENDOUS CHALLENGE!"
"Painting plein air has thrown everyone out of their comfort zone - even the camera crew"
The paint appeared to be running off the canvas. I can only conclude they'd been supplied with media which mixed with the amount of moisture in the atmosphere caused the paint to diffuse and disappear. I've actually never seen anything like it.  At one point I wrote down
All their paintings are washing away!
Presumably retiring to a seafront cafe and painting from the window (the perennial sketcher solution) was not an option?

The mentors gave prompts about eyelines and perspective and proportion with reminders to measure size, shapes and angles - and generally indicated that they were looking for a bit of determination to deal with the elements.

Personally I found myself being rather surprised to hear one of the mentors telling one of the painters that he needed to make sure that buildings get lighter as they go away from you - without any explanation as to why.  Clearly the concept of "aerial perspective" didn't make it on to the perspective teaching script - or the idea that this doesn't just apply to buildings.

Angela Watson emerged as a bit of star for this part of the programme. Not only was she very used to it being rainy at the seaside (the only time she ever visited was when the weather was too bad to do anything on the farm) but she also got stuck in and found a unique solution to dealing with the way her paint kept dripping down the canvas. She turned the canvas sideways so the drips then ran horizontally across the canvas. Plus she produced a painting which all three judges like a lot!  I think she's going to do well despite only painting for a year.

Angela gets to grips with her streaks

The Second Big Painting Challenge - Landscapes

The next day, the contestants encounter and experience that well known phenomenon of painting plein air in the UK - four seasons in one day!
  • The location for the day is the pier (did the producers know this is always the most blustery place at the seaside?) and 
  • the challenge is to paint the landscape, architecture and beachfront of Hastings. 
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