Thursday, April 17, 2014

Shortlist announced for BP Portrait Award 2014

Two elderly women and a homeless man painted by an international shortlist of three male artists are in competition for the £30,000 BP Portrait Award 2014.

These are:
  • Thomas Ganter (Germany) for Man with a Plaid Blanket
  • David Kassan (USA) for Letter to my Mom and
  • Richard Twose (UK) for Jean Woods.

The second and third prizes in the 35th year of this internationally prestigious art competition are worth £10,000 and £8,000.  

The winner of the BP Young Artist Award of £7,000 will also be announced at the Awards Evening on the evening of Tuesday 24 June 2014 (the date is in my diary!)  I really like the idea that nobody has any idea who this will be until the night itself.  Should make for a big turnout by those aged 18 to 30! 


Man with a Plaid Blanket
by Thomas Ganter, 2013
160 x 60 cm oil on canvas
© Thomas Ganter
The BP Portrait Exhibition will be held in London, Sunderland and Edinburgh:
  • the National Portrait Gallery in London (26 June – 21 September 2014). Admission is free - and this is always a very popular exhibition with lots of visitors. 
  • Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens (4 October, 2014 – 16 November, 2014) and 
  • The Scottish National Portrait Gallery (28 November – 12 April, 2015.)

Artists shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2014

I've got the high resolution images of these portraits and I have to say I'm extremely impressed by all three and can make a case for each of them winning.

My gut says Ganter will win. There's something very penetrating and yet enduring about that portrait and themes it raises. Plus I've never ever seen another painting like it in the BP and originality counts for a lot.

Thomas Ganter

Age: 40
Nationality: German
Occupation: Artist and illustrator
Current home: Frankfurt/Main, Germany
Art education: ?
Previous appearances in this award: ?
Website: none
Subject: Karel, a homeless man
After being in a museum, I saw a homeless man and was stunned by a similarity: the clothes, the pose, and other details resembled what I just saw in various paintings. However, this time I was looking at a homeless person wrapped in a blanket and not at the painting of a saint or noble in their elaborate garment. By portraying a homeless man in a manner reserved for nobles or saints, I tried to emphasise that everyone deserves respect and care. Human dignity shouldn’t be relative or dependent on socio-economic status’. 
His shortlisted portrait invites the viewer to contemplate the coexistence of wealth and poverty.

Karel, who tries to earn some money by cleaning car windscreens in the artist’s neighbourhood, attended five sittings for the portrait. After these, in which the head and the hands were painted, Ganter used a life-sized doll, and painted the clothes and the blanket before finally adding the artificial flower at the bottom right.

Letter to my Mom
by David Jon Kassan, 2013
124.5 x 81 cm oil on aluminium panel
© David Jon Kassan

David Jon Kassan

Age: 37
Nationality: American - born in Little Rock, Arkansas
Occupation: Artist
Current home: Brooklyn, New York
Art education: ? however he has two lists of recommended books and recommended materials
Previous appearances in this award: ?
Interview with the artist on Youtube
Subject: Letter to my Mom is a portrait of his mother.

You can see much larger images of this portrait on his website.

His portrait is the product of a request to his mother and father to sit for him in his studio in New York City while his parents made a brief stop on their way to Europe.
My work is very personal and heartfelt. It’s my visual diary, so my family and loved ones make up a large part of what and why I paint. My parents have always been inspirational to paint. This portrait is a letter to my mom, who hates it when I paint her. But I tell her in the painting that by painting her, it is my way of spending time with her, contemplating our relationship and time together, my earliest memories’. The Hebrew text painted onto the portrait above the sitter reads: ‘Dear Mom,/ This painting is my way to spend more time with you./ My way to meditate on our life together./ And all of the earliest memories I have/All of my earliest memories from you’.
Mothers are perennial and enduring sitters for BP portrait artists! Kassan's mother had sat for him a few years before and was reluctant to sit for him again. In order to persuade her, he had to bribe her by offering her a painting of his son Lucas.  I think all mothers should hold out for a bribe like that!

Personally I think the letter idea has a strong appeal.

The painting also reminds me a lot of Aleah Chapin's portrait from two years ago which in a way I'm surprised about.  The notion is that "me too" paintings should be avoided at all costs.  However this is a very fine painting judging by the high resolution image I've seen.  Maybe the similarity is to do with a style of painting in New York?

My reservation about this painting is I just don't quite see a painting which doesn't include the eyes actually winning this award.

Jean Woods
by Richard Twose, 2014
90 x 60 cm oil on board
© Richard Twose

Richard Twose

Age: 51
Nationality: British
Occupation: Teacher and artist - he currently teaches Painting and Drawing and Art History at a sixth form college in Bristol
Current home: Bath
Art education: ?
Previous appearances in this award: ?
Subject: Jean Woods, a 76 grandmother living in Larkhall, Bath

Richard Twose first saw the sitter of his portrait, Jean Woods, when she was working in a shop in Bath. His daughter told him that she was the grandmother of a friend after he saw her again in Channel Four's documentary Fabulous Fashionistas which was a.....
Cutting Edge documentary meets six women with an average age of 80, who are determined to look fabulous, have fun and redefine old age!
After calling her and asking her to sit for him, he was struck by her professionalism as a sitter –derived from her recent experience as a fashion model and from a quality of stillness she seems to possess naturally.

He was impressed not only by her striking looks and contemporary, edgy style, but also by the depth of character in her face.
Sometimes as Jean was talking, especially about her much-missed late husband, she reminded me of Rembrandt's Portrait of Margaretha de Geer. Jean has a similar intensity and honesty in her gaze. I wanted to capture that sense of someone who has learnt to be almost fearless, looking forward to life still but with a great richness of experience behind her’.
It's a fine portrait and well painted. However I find Jean Woods more striking in the photographs of her - click the links above to see what I mean.

Judging Panel

This year’s judging panel are:
  • Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery (Chair)
  • Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery
  • Dr Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Holburne Museum, Bath
  • Joanna Trollope, Author
  • Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP
  • Jonathan Yeo, Artist

Observations about the shortlisted works

Note that:
  • not one of the portraits is a portrait of just a head.  As I've pointed out in previous posts (see below), the panel want to know whether you can do more than paint a head - because that's what commissions for the NPG usually involve.
  • all portray the individual above the waist
  • all make a feature of the hands - demonstrating abilities in that very important area
  • colour palettes are very varied but impressive - these are people who know how to use colour
  • backgrounds are not flat - even if one is flattish

Relative sizes

I did a little exercise to check the relative sizes. This was prompted by being stunned when visiting the exhibition by the very different sizes of some of the artwork of shortlisted artists in previous years.  I cranked up Excel and starting counting cells and then overlayed the artwork - and then thought again and lined them up as if on a wall.

Relative size of the three portraits
Left to right: Ganter, Kassan and Twoze

BP Portrait Award - previous years

I've been covering the BP Portrait Award for some years and have an extensive archive of posts relating to previous competitions which I know are much studied by those contemplating an entry!

BP Portrait Award - Shortlisted artists on Making A Mark:

BP Portrait Award 2012

BP Portrait Award 2011

BP Portrait Award 2010

BP Portrait Award 2009

BP Portrait Award 2008

BP Portrait Award 2007

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sarah Simblet and The New Sylva - a video

Back in 2008 I did a drawing class with Sarah Simblet about Drawing Trees at the National Gallery. She talked about a major project she had embarked upon to draw trees.

Little did I realise at the time this would lead her to illustrating a new and revised version of a very old book about trees. The New Sylva - published this month - is an updated book about trees which takes as its starting point John Evelyn's Sylva (A Discourse of Forest Trees, and the Propagation of Timber in his Majesty's Dominions) published in 1664 - which was the world's first book about Forestry.

That wasn't illustrated - and this one is - with 200 new pen and ink drawings of more than 100 tree species.

Images from the book can be viewed on Facebook
The original book was for landed estates which grew trees. The new book is for everyone.

You can:

The events associated with the publication of The New Sylva are all located as one might expect at arboreta and botanical gardens

Monday, April 14, 2014

More Top Tips for winning an RHS Gold Medal for Botanical Art

Last year I wrote Ten Top Tips for winning an RHS Gold Medal for Botanical Art - which proved very popular with botanical artists around the world.  So this year I'm back with more Top Tips from this year's "crop" of Gold Medal Winners

Gold Medal winning Exhibit of Parasitic Plants in Situ with the Host Plant by Lynda de Wet
The painting second from left with the red spot was bought for the collection kept at the RHS Lindley Library 
Last year the tips highlighted were as follows

1. Only submit top notch work
2. Find a Helpful Grower
3. Never ever forget that the RHS is a Horticultural Society
4. Get the Botany right - know what to show and highlight
5. Practice to achieve top quality
6. Size your work to fit the Panels
7. Have a good team behind you
8. Take care with your presentation
9. Start very early!
10. You need many more business cards than you think possible!

This year we have some different ones. The quotations you will find in each section come from either the Guidance or the Regulations relating to the Royal Horticultural Society Botanical Art Show held every year in the Lindley Hall.

1. Be happy - do what you love

Işık Güner with her painting of Gunnera which won
Best Painting in RHS Botanical Art Show 2014
This one came from the winner of both a Gold Medal and Best Painting in the show Işık Güner.

She thinks artists can work really long hours on a project when they truly enjoy what they do. Having the right subject can make for a really relaxed and meditative time and really make you happy!

I have to say I'm very much in agreement with this. There has to be an emotional connection between subject, media and artist for an artist to achieve their best work. Plus when tackling a long complex project it's always best if you love your subject!

TIP #1: Truly enjoy what you do

2. Do not rush!

This one is the result of various comments from different people. Some of the exhibits had a long gestation period while artists collected all the material they needed BEFORE they settled down to paint.  They emphasised the real importance and positive impact of very thorough preparation.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

15 Top Tips for presenting work at an RHS Botanical Art Exhibition

There are two important aspects of artwork in the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition - the artwork and its presentation. The latter is very important - as discussed below.

Poor presentation will certainly lose you marks and downgrade the level of medal that might be achieved by the paintings exhibited.

So here are 15 top tips culled from the Gold Medal winning exhibitors this year (and in previous years).

[Note: I've spent the last two days at the RHS Botanical Art Show in the Lindley Hall in Westminster. This is the first of my blog posts about this show.  I've got at least two more planned this coming week relating to More Top Tips for winning an RHS Gold Medal and interviews with all six RHS Gold Medallists.]

Part of the RHS Botanical Art Show 2014

1. Presentation matters

Presentation really matters - a lot! These are the criteria used by the RHS when assessing an exhibit. They include (and I've highlighted in bold) points which are particularly relevant to presentation

Friday, April 11, 2014

RHS Botanical Art Show 2014 - Medal winners

Below you can find a list of the awards made this morning at the RHS Botanical Art Show 2014 at the RHS Horticultural Halls in Westminster.  The exhibition continues tomorrow.

Best Botanical Painting - by Işık Güner

RHS Best Botanical Painting - Işık Güner 

RHS Best Exhibit of Botanical Art - Hye Woo Shin

RHS Gold Medal - Botanical Art

  • Hye Woo Shin (Korea) - Heterotrophic Plants in Korea
  • Işık Güner (Turkey/Scotland) - Plants from the woods & forests of Chile
  • Lynda de Wet (South Africa) - Parasitic Plants in Situ with the Host Plant - this is her blog
  • Louise Lane (UK) - Ophrys (Bee Orchids) of Menorca
  • Nikki Marks (UK) - The Genus Arisaema
  • Sharon Tingey (UK/Scotland) - Sunflowers (Helianthus)

RHS Silver-Gilt Medal (Flora)

  • Nilavan Adams (Australia) - Veggie Might
  • Sansanee Deekrajang (Thailand) - Plants and shadow
  • Jane Fisher (USA) - Field corn
  • Verene Kutter (Switzerland) The Genus Anemone in Flora Europeae
  • Angela Petrini (Italy) - Exotic flowering trees of Italy
  • Yoshiko Kamei (Japan) - Iris
  • Gaynor Dickeson (UK) - Small is beautiful; Crab apples explored
  • Valerie Dugan (UK) - Wild Orchids of Britain
  • Caroline Frances-King (UK) - Arboreal Elements
  • Sally Pond (UK) - 'Of autumn mists and mellow fruitfulness'
  • Penny Price (UK) - The life history of Castanospermum australe 'Black bean tree' or Moreton Bay Chestnut
  • Fran Thomas (UK/Scotland) - Native Scottish marginal pond plants (Rumex aquaticus, Menyanthes trifoliata, Iris pseudacorus, Caltha palustris, Lythrum salicaria & Petasites hybridus)

RHS Silver Medal (Flora)

  • Beverly Duncan (USA) - Winter Branches - Natives of the Northeastern U.S.A.
  • Tiziana Fontana (Italy) - Sardinian Grapes
  • Anna Lu (Singapore) - Orchids

RHS Bronze (Flora)

  • Olivia Chambers - Roots, Shoots, Stems and Flowers

I'll be doing more posts about the show - including interviews with the RHS Gold Medal Winners and top tips for producing botanical art.

If you'd like to be alerted when these are posted you can subscribe to this blog (see side column).

More about Botanical Art

Işık Güner and Fran Thomas talk to Julia Trickey about watercolour paints
- Julia is using Daniel Smith for the demonstration
Ann Swan's coloured pencils

You can find more resources about Botanical Art in my resources for artists websites:
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