Friday, May 22, 2015

Hogarth and Henry Hudson

crop of the first plate Leaving China New Hopecopyright Henry Hudson
The other day I went to see a quite remarkable show called The Rise and Fall of Young Sen by a young artist called Henry Hudson at Sotheby's Gallery.  If you get a chance to see it before it closes on 29th May I really recommend you visit - and be amazed.

If you do go, be prepared to stay a while, there's an awful lot to see!

The show - and the work - is remarkable for four reasons:
  1. Hudson set himself the challenge of creating a contemporary version of Hogarth's series of images on a moral purpose and has pulled it off. His series of 10 panels is amazing - and then some!
  2. He works in plasticine - it's varnished prior to exhibition.
  3. It's big! He refers to the individual panels weighing something similar to a bronze.
  4. He sold most of the works before the show opened.
Just to give you some sense of the size of this endeavour - here's a view of six of the ten panels in Sothebey's Gallery. At the end of the gallery you can see two people standing in front of one of the panels.

The Rise and Fall of Young Sen - Plates 5-10
Sotheby's Gallery
copyright Henry Hudson
In this instance, updating the series to the present day has involved switching the individual to a young Chinese man who comes to the west to study medicine but who then becomes distracted by the art world and begins a journey through various aspects of the contemporary art scene.

The Autopsy at King's College
There's a myriad of references to contemporary events in the image
Plus spot the reference to Damien Hirst's works
copyright Henry Hudson
I kept being bemused as to which Hogarth series the contemporary version was following. There's an element of A Rake's Progress with a smattering of Marriage à-la-mode and Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751) in this instance updated to drugs rather than alcohol.  

However what struck me the most was the overwhelming amount of content. It's also not unlike Grayson Perry's The Vanity of Small Differences - particularly in relation to size, perspective and the emphasis on drawing out lots of small but important details. However there's an awful lot more 'content' in these Henry Hudson artworks.

3. Protest and Performance
spot the National Gallery in the background
copyright Henry Hudson
I'm not in the least bit bothered by the similarity. I'm just really pleased that there is yet another artist who is interested in narrative art and social comment on contemporary behaviour!  The fact that like Grayson Perry, he's chosen to make his artwork in a medium not much seen in galleries these days is all the better!

These are links to:
His website also explains the process of how he works

You can see more of his work on his website - including the drawings which appear to be an essential part of the process.

Below you can find images of some of the works in the series.

What isn't mentioned so much is the fact that the series is laden with references to art - both historical and contemporary. In fact it's quite a heavy duty work-out in the "spot the cultural reference" department.

There's everything from a reworking of The Third of May by Goya (and Manet) in the final 'plate'

a crop of The Execution
this tells the story  Young Sen's return to China and his beating and final demise
copyright Henry Hudson
to echoes of the faces painted by Francis Bacon (plus spot The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron)

crop of Rehabilitation
copyright Henry Hudson
in the remarkable work about Rehabilitation - which in turn echoes the paintings of St Remy by Van Gogh topped off with images associated with Jeff Koons and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

copyright Henry Hudson
These are links to articles about the exhibition and the artist. The universal theme is how the series took over his life and consumed all his time for a very long period.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Society of Botanical Artists - Diploma Assignments

Students of the Society of Botanical Artists' Distance Learning Diploma Course come from all over the world.

Over time, rather than being isolated in their studies and studios, they've come up with a few ways to keep in touch over the 27 months as they work their way through the various assignments and their portfolio and the work for assessment at the end of the course.

One is the Facebook Group for Botanical Artists (3,426 members as of today - and climbing all the time). Another is blogging and there are now quite a few botanical art blogs!
Along the way some of those studying for the Diploma decided to share what they were doing and how their assignments were going on their blogs.

Then they started to share the feedback they got - plus tips for how to do things - and the process they were using to develop their artwork....

I've been watching and reading some of these blog posts for a long time. It suddenly struck me that they were a resource that could be lost if not made a tad more accessible. (For example, just as they are always lost forever if similar posts are made on Facebook - because that archive is not easily accessible if at all)

Hence why I've now created a new page devoted to blog posts about SBA Diploma Assignments on my new website Botanical Art and Artists.

Each of the assignments is listed in order:
  • they include the outline of what is involved in each assignment
  • this is followed by blog posts which relate to this Diploma assignment (note the numbering has changed of late)
Artwork produced by the SBA Distance Learning Diploma Students
- as seen at this year's SBA Annual Exhibition
So if you're starting the SBA in January 2016 - or have already started and are a bit stuck with your current assignment - why not go and have a read of some of the blog posts!

I'd like to thank all the ladies whose blog posts have been included on the page. The name of the blog is indicated in italics.  Those whose names are highlighted in red were awarded a Distinction for their Diploma.

  • Vicki Lee Johnston DipSBA(Dist.) (Vicki Lee Johnston - Botanical Art- Lives in Western Australia - and of course all the seasons are out of synch with the course! Vicki graduated from the Diploma Course with Distinction and I found her posts very helpful.
North America - Canada & USA
  • Laura Ashton DipSBA BAC (Laura Ashton Illustration and Design) - Lives in Canada. In 2014, Laura Ashton was awarded a Diploma with credit and the Jantien Burggraaff Memorial Award for progress. In 2015 she became a member of the Botanical Artists of Canada. 
  • Lori Vreeke (Art by Vreeke) - Lives in California, USA. Her assignments are completed in coloured pencil
  • Helen Cousins (Petals and Paints) Started January 2014 and due to complete early in 2016. Helen is currently studying medicine in Southampton. Helen's posts are excellent in providing feedback on how her assignments were marked thus providing lots of information for those currently studying or thinking about doing the Diploma course.
  • Jarnie Godwin AssocSBA DipSBA(Dist.) (Sketchbook Squirrel) - Jarnie was awarded a Distinction for her Diploma work
  • Jessica R Shepherd DipSBA (Inky Leaves) - Lived in London and now lives in Spain
  • Dianne Sutherland (Dianne Sutherland - botanical artist) - Dianne was awarded a Distinction in 2011; she's one of the Moderators of the Facebook Group and has been an artist and illustrator for 30+ years.

I learned a lot from this exercise

Vicki Lee Johnstone - with her Diploma with Distinction
The first thing I learned is that it's not difficult to predict who will be awarded a Distinction from their assignment work during their course of studies - and often from an early stage. 

It's something to do with the commitment and the approach to research and preparation. 

It's also something to do with the character of an individual who does NOT choose the easy option but rather chooses a challenge.  

It reminded me very much of the character of and the processes employed by the artists I meet who win RHS Gold Medals for their botanical art.

The next lesson I learned is that just as the standard of Diploma work produced at the end of assignments has progressively improved in recent years, so too has the standard of work produced for the Diploma assignments.

What struck me very forcibly is that it's never too early to start taking this form of art seriously and that putting time, effort and research into the process of producing an artwork pays off in the long run.

Before long they're going to have to start a pre-Diploma Certificate Course to get people up to the standard they need to be to take on the Diploma!

The final lesson was the sheer pleasure to be gained by following somebody's journey and watching them improve how they work and what they produce as a result of a structured process of learning. As somebody who has a degree in Education and qualified as a teacher a very long time ago, that's an experience I never ever tire of.

and finally......

This Diploma course has had a hugely positive impact on the calibre of work shown in the SBA's Annual Exhibition.

It also generates tuition fee income for the society which is paid over in fees for those who teach and assess the course.

I'm just left wondering why more art societies don't develop their own Diploma Courses......

A Making A Mark Interview with Margaret Stevens is the interview I did back in 2009 with the past President of the SBA Margaret Stevens PPSBA, FSBA. Margaret was the first Director of the Course. She was also the person who got it off the ground and the person who wrote the four SBA books which are set texts for the Diploma Course. It's an education in how to get an art society involved in improving standards of artwork.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Celebrate a visual artist on the next £20 note

The Bank of England is asking the public to make suggestions as to who should be on the next £20 note. 

It must be somebody British and noteworthy in the field of visual arts.

At the end of this post
  • I'm making my own suggestions
  • I'm asking you who YOU think might be an appropriate person to represent visual arts in Britain.
The new Banknote Character Advisory Committee decided back in 2013 that the next £20 note should celebrate the field of visual arts. That might possibly be something to do with the fact that Sandy Nairne, former Director of the National Portrait Gallery is one of the external members on that Committee! :)
Members of the public will have two months to nominate people of historic significance from the visual arts including artists, sculptors, printmakers, designers, craftspeople, ceramicists, architects, fashion designers, photographers and filmmakers – whose work shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society. The public can nominate characters from within the field of visual arts on the Bank’s website.
It's important to note that the Bank will
  • NOT represent living characters on its notes, with the exception of the Monarch. 
  • NOT identify individuals who would be unduly divisive
  • ONLY include a recognisable and usable representation of an individual within a banknote design. This is because banknotes are designed to be easy to authenticate and difficult to counterfeit. 
Nominations can be made until 19 July 2015. To nominate please visit the Bank of England website and complete the nomination form

Note about the process

Back at the end of 2013, the Bank of England decided that the public should have much more involvement in the choice of people to include on banknotes.


For some reason, Jonathan Jones of the Guardian has once again been told or has chosen to be controversial (others would call it downright rude!) in Should the public vote for the artist on the new £20 note? No way – they've got terrible taste. He's decided that "the people" cannot be trusted to vote because too few do and it is then too easy to sway the vote.

I think he's got it badly wrong. This is not an art competition, nor is it a taste competition!

It's not even a competition! It's about making suggestions so a Committee can get a sense of which individual has the most resonance with the British public. It's not about who painted the best pictures - it's about which visual artists have captured people's imaginations and who are the British public most attached to - and why would they like to see them on their £20 notes.

Here's a couple of examples of what I mean:
I'm certainly not one of the 'nay sayers' like Jones.

Instead I'm one of those who encourage people to vote on the basis that very often people do genuinely come up with suggestions which surprise the art establishment! So......

Who do you think ought to be on the next £20 note?

First - Will you be voting?  I'm going to make a suggestion but my long list is a bit too long at the moment!

Second - Which dead visual artist will you be nominating?

I'm going to start a long list below and will add to it as names get suggested.

The Long List

I've come up with some suggestions.


Charle Rennie Mackintosh


Uncontroversial artists who I would imagine might have a lot of support would include
  • Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) – one of the few who is both an effective portrait and landscape painter - but I can't quite see him getting a groundswell of support
  • Nicholas Hilliard - an interesting choice since the portrait on the note is in effect a miniature and he one of the most famous miniature painters. He's also one of the very few early English artists whose name is well known. I also rather like the idea of this self-portrait being used for the £20 note!
Earliest selfportrait of Nicholas Hilliard 1577
  • JMW Turner - I should think would be a very popular choice - and no worse for that! His youthful self-portrait is also well-known and would make for a good portrait on a bank note.
Self portrait by Turner c.1799
  • John Constable - another popular choice?
  • Stanley Spencer - I should think that aspects of his marital life and unconventional perspective on religion might be a bit of a problem - and put him out of the running.
Stanley Spencer - self portrait 1914
This is the face of the man who painted all those memorable 1st World War paintings
see 'Stanley Spencer: Heaven in a Hell of War' at Somerset House

I immediately thought of Grayson Perry - but he'd have to meet an unfortunate end very quickly to make him eligible!  Anyway here goes with the rest....
  • Josiah Wedgewood - this is a man who not only founded a very famous British pottery company which exported all over the world. He is also responsible for the industrialisation of the manufacture of pottery. I would have thought he's got to be in the running.  His image could also be characterised as if it was a ceramic Wedgewood bust or miniature.
Bust of Josiah Wedgwood
completed in 1864 by Giovanni Fontana (1821-1893),
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England
  • Bernard Leach - a possibility but he doesn't quite have the weight of credentials or popularity behind him - and his face is unknown


    • William Morris - his socialist credentials might put him out of the running re. the uncontroversial front
    Portrait of William Morris, aged 53


    • Charles Rennie Mackintosh (again) - a very familiar image and, I would imagine, a very popular choice. He is, of course also an architect and a crafts person.

    Fashion designer

    • Alexander McQueen - one of the very few to have the weight to compete - but maybe a bit too recent?


    • David Lean springs to mind - and he has a very chiselled face which would be both recognisable and look good on a bank note.


    • Eadweard Muybridge - a face that is totally unknown of a photographer who is very well known. He pioneered studies of motion. However is he uncontroversial given the fact that he shot and killed his wife's lover, but was acquitted in a jury trial on the grounds of justifiable homicide.
    Sequences by Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)
    of himself throwing a disk, using a step, and walking


    • William Hogarth - English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic and editorial cartoonist. He has the advantage of covering a number of bases like Mackintosh - however I always think of him as a printmaker. Of course if this protrait were to be used, it would also win over the dog lobby!
    William Hogarth
    • Sir Henry Moore - my reservation with this one is I'm not sure he's well known as a 'face' even if his sculptures are extremely well known and very recognisable
    • Dame Barbara Hepworth - would be in the running but for the fact she's already had a museum named after her!
    I think my favourite so far is Charles Rennie Mackintosh - with Nicholas Hilliard as a close second. I wouldn't mind in the least if it were Sir Henry Moore and they could work out how to make him recognisable.

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    Jerwood Drawing Prize: Call for Entries

    The Call for Entries has gone out for the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2015.  This is the largest and longest running drawing prize in the UK. Deadline for registering up to three entries is 5pm on 26 June 2015.

    [Please note this post was revised on 19th May - I had a niggle about the terms and conditions which became defined more precisely after a good night's sleep!]

    Also, I've now had confirmation that the Derwent Art Prize (for pencil art) is not running this year (regular readers may remember the controversy about the award of the prize last year) and will in future run on a biennial basis.

    Which means that The Jerwood Drawing Prize is the premier prize for drawing this year.  
    This open exhibition is a platform for drawing practitioners to showcase their work alongside other leading contemporary artists in this field, and provides those selected with the opportunity to help define a wider understanding of drawing for future generations. They will create an exhibition that explores and celebrates the diversity, excellence and range of current drawing practice in the UK.
    To be honest, this prize always reeks to me of the academic and esoteric.  Last year an audio piece won the Jerwood Prize 2014 .

    Alison Carlier was awarded the First Prize of £8,000 for her 1 minute 15 second audio work entitled ‘Adjectives, lines and marks’ which she describes as “An open-ended audio drawing, a spoken description of an unknown object”. See the BBC piece Jerwood Drawing Prize awarded to sound piece

    Hopefully its judges will read its rules carefully before selecting artists and prizewinners - unlike those who judged the Derwent last year!

    [NEW] EXCEPT the problem is that the rules say precisely nothing about what a drawing is - unlike the Derwent.

    This is all the help you get. This statement (below) isn't even part of the General Information or Terms and Conditions which is a very odd way to run a competition. If you have no restrictions on how you define a drawing then this should be stated explicitly in amongst the information the judges are supposed to use as criteria for their judging.
    No, we do not specify what media work should be in. The nature of the exhibition is to generate debate about contemporary drawing practice and therefore work in any media is eligible for entry, if the artist considers it as drawing. Whilst debate about contemporary drawing practice is encouraged, the decision of the Selection Panel is final and binding.
    So bottom line this is a prize for drawing which refuses to define what a drawing might be.  

    The only criteria is that the artist considers it to be a drawing.

    If you like these sort of rules then this is the competition for you. Enter whatever you feel like so long as you consider it to be a drawing!

    Jerwood Prize 2015

    For those who are serious about entering whatever they consider to be a drawing, this is a summary of what you need to know:

    Who can enter

    • the competition is open to all artists resident in the UK (ie overseas students at college here are eligible to enter; Brits living abroad are not)

    What you can enter

    • Only work made since January 2014 is eligible for entry
    • All work submitted must be available from the date of submission in 2015 and for the duration of exhibition and tour in 2015-2016.
    • Artists may register to enter up to three drawings
    • Work should not exceed 2.5m in any dimension when framed.

    How work must be presented

    • Composite drawings must be presented within one frame
    • Works that cannot be mirror plated must be accompanied by full installation instructions and if selected, the artist may be required to provide suitable fixings.
    • Frames MUST be durable for handling and hanging purposes throughout the selection process, exhibition and tour.
    • If work is unframed it should be packaged appropriately and robustly for transportation and storage throughout the exhibition and tour.
    • see the Rules and Guidelines for additional and more detailed instructions

    How to enter

    • entry fees for students artists are reduced
    • the deadline for registering entries is 5pm on 26 June 2015
    • you must nominate submission and collection centre during registration and cannot change these afterwards
    • Once registered, artists are invited to submit their works through one of the regional collection centres.


    Drawings are considered for inclusion in the exhibition by a panel of three selectors who represent the perspectives of practitioner, curator and writer all with expertise in the field of drawing. Each year the selection panel changes, and the resultant exhibitions reflect differing priorities and focus for each panel in response to the work submitted for their consideration. The selectors act as independent arbiters of the works presented, and are tasked to identify and choose drawings that represent their combined prerogatives and values in response to the submission. The panel first select the drawings for the exhibition, and then collectively choose the drawings that will receive the awards. 
    Jerwood Prize 2014 Catalogue | Introduction
    • All artists will be informed by email of the Selection Panel's decision by Friday 17 July 2015.
    • I can't say I've heard of any of the 2015 selectors who are: 


    The prizes on offer include a First Prize of £8,000, Second Prize of £5,000 and two Student Awards of £2,000 each.


    The exhibition will comprise c. 70 works - from emerging and established artists - at the Jerwood Space, London from 16 September – 25 October 2015 and subsequently it will tour to venues across the UK.

    Artwork can be sold and the artist's price should allow for 50% commission charged

    Winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2013
    Apocalypse (My Boyfriend Doesn’t Care)
    Ink on paper, 183 x 150cm
    For further details and to register online please visit the Jerwood Drawing Prize Application Page where you will find
    You can follow what's happening re. Jerwood Drawing Prize 2015 on Twitter by using the hashtag #JDP15 or following @JerwoodJVA

    For all enquiries please contact project managers, Parker Harris:
    Tel: 01372 462190

    Sunday, May 17, 2015

    Grayson Perry's Dream House - tonight on Channel 4

    Tonight on Channel 4 (9pm) there is a programme about "A House for Essex" - the dream house created by Grayson Perry CBE RA - artist and contemporary social anthropologist.

    The programme has been made by the BAFTA-award winning team which also made the excellent programmes:
    A House for Essex overlooks the river Stour at Wrabness, six miles west of Harwich port. It's a product of the artist's collaboration with architectural firm Fashion Architecture Taste (FAT).
    Visualisation of A House for Essex
    It took three years to build and it now tells the story of "Our Lady of Essex" Julie Cope.  Interestingly it would appear that it was originally intended that tonight's programme would be shown on television in 2014 - see my previous blog post about Grayson Perry on television in 2014

    This is a video of Grayson Perry's Tour of 'A House for Essex' - Director's Cut
    Grayson Perry takes you on a personal tour through A House for Essex, a loving tribute and celebration of his homeland in Essex. This is the 'non-360', panoramic version.
    This is the BBC Video - Take a walk around the house that Grayson Perry designed

    I'll leave any further comment until after the programme has ben shown. Safe to say that if you've enjoyed any of the previous programmes my guess is you will enjoy this one too.

    However there is more elsewhere:

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