Friday, April 17, 2015

Prizewinners at the Society of Botanical Artists' Annual Exhibition 2015

Yesterday's Private View of the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists was yet again an occasion to meet old friends as well as view some wonderful art in a very well hung exhibition.

This year the exhibition has 603 drawings and paintings in the main display and 18 miniatures and 3D works. These were selected from well over 900 entries.

The layout seems to me to be working better than last year with fewer 'skied' pictures which meant fewer problems with white outs from the lighting.

The theme this year is "In pursuit of plants" and as always it's always fascinating to see how this has been interpreted by the different artists. (Next year the theme is "Shape, Pattern and Structure" which I'm very excited about as it's all the things I like about plants!)

I'm going to focus in this post on the main prizewinners and
  • give a more considered opinion of the work in the show in my post on Sunday
  • highlight those who won a Certificate of Botanical Merit on Monday.
That's because knowing more and more people every year, one ends up spending more time talking and less time looking and because I'm going back to see the exhibition again this afternoon to see the demo about painting on vellum and review the exhibition again so I can pick out the pieces I want to highlight. So sorry not to provide more about the exhibition overall at this stage!

I'll also be highlighting the Tours and Demonstrations dates and members involved at the end of this post

The Exhibition is open from 11.00am to 5.00pm every day between 17 to 26 April 2015 at Westminster Central Hall, Storey’s Gate, London SW1H 9NH.

But first the prizes - and this year, for the very first time, I get a mention!!

Society of Botanical Art - 2015 Awards

Gardener, writer and broadcaster Matthew Biggs to open the exhibition and was very enthusiastic about the standard of work on display. He also presented the prizes.

The Joyce Cuming Presentation Award

This is a legacy from Joyce Cuming – a sterling silver Almoner’s plate. The winner receives a certificate.  It is however one of the awards which are most prized as this one also produces a list of people who were Highly Commended during the selection process.

Gael Selwood accepting her award - the silver plate of
The Joyce Cuming Presentation Award
The winner this year was Gael Selwood GM SBA PGCE, FEATC Cert HE(BotIll) for Hydrangea macrophylla 'King George' from her 2014 RHS Gold Medal winning exhibit of autumn and winter hydrangeas (at Malven).

Gael Selwood holding the Joyce Cuming silver plate high above her head
with her watercolour painting of Hydrangea macrophylla 'King George'

Those Highly Commended included the following artists (attribution is in the caption to the image)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A new website - Botanical Art and Artists

Today I'm launching my new website Botanical Art and Artists  It provides a compendium of resources about botanical art past and present for botanical artists and illustrators of today and tomorrow.

If you just want to look at some wonderful art, there's lots to look at and links to take you to more places to enjoy the art produced in the the last few hundred years and by today' artists.

There's also lots of information to help you improve if your focus is on drawing or painting plants and flowers.

Botanical Art and Artists - a compendium website
Home Page of Botanical Art and Artists on Launch Day 16th April 2015

You can access information on the site via
  • the top menu - which has a drop down menu of pages within each topic 
  • the menu at the bottom of the page which provides quick links to headlines of content in a slightly different format.
You'll also find that due to a responsive design it can be accessed easily via a desktop, a tablet or a smartphone. (On the smartphone it reads down the columns in sequence left to right - making decisions about how to locate content more than a little challenging!)

Please bookmark it and/or share it with anybody who you think might like to access its resources. 

Today seemed like a good day for the public launch as it's also the Private View day of the 2015 Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists!  (I have two coloured pencil drawings in the show!)

Where to find the SBA

The SBA features quite a bit on various pages - and this is probably quite a good way of explaining how the site works.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Prizewinners at the 124th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters

This post highlights the prizewinners at the 124th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. I'll be writing more about the exhibition on Saturday.

The Private View as per usual was packed. If anything I'd say there were even more people than usual.

The PrivateView
There are even more people in the other galleries and waiting outside!
A few brief words about the exhibition to start. It's very well hung - I gather a new hanging team have taken up the challenge of producing a good looking exhibition. The Conversations and Peoples choice exhibition in the Threadneedle space looks particularly good.

The only thing which puzzled me was why the first painting I'd ever seen in the Mall Galleries priced at £100,000 was in the North Gallery. It's a very good portrait by Jennifer Anderson of the current Director of the British Museum and the Director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Even more puzzling is why it's listed as £100,000 on the wall of the North Gallery (middle room), a "publicly commissioned work" on her website and as Not For Sale on the Mall Galleries website. Which is it? Has somebody confused value with price?

The exhibition opens to the public on Thursday 16th April and continues until the 1st May 2015 at the Mall Galleries. Catalogues are £10 and admission is £3 and £2.50 concession. Free to Friends of Mall Galleries, National Art Pass holders and under 18s

The Prizewinners

Some £35,000 in award money was distributed during the prizegiving ceremony due to some generous sponsorship.  There are three brand new prizes this year - and one of them was my idea!

The Seven Investment Management £15,000 'Conversations' Prize

The 'Conversations Prize is awarded for the best work interpreting the theme of a conversation piece, including two or more figures.
John Wonnacott CBW RP celebrated his 70th birthday with a cheque for £15,000 as the winner of the Conversations Prize in its inaugural year.

John Wonnacott with his painting
Ian and Lois, the White Slip
Oil, 225 cm x 135 cm

The painting which won the prize is a commission and is called Ian and Lois, The White Slip.  Ian, the The gentleman in the painting, has sat for a number of portraits with a sitting once a week and he and John know each other very well. The woman in the painting is his wife Lois. The background includes a very large painting John was working on. Plus a number of mirrors set up to create a more interesting background - you see the backs as well as the front of the couple - plus John himself sat in a chair in front of his easel.  It's a fascinating painting - it's a little bit like a puzzle with a bit of Van Eyck thrown in.

I asked John what he intended to spend the money on. John told me that he'd recently had to spend a lot of money having his garage rebuilt as this is where he stores his paintings (he generally has around 20 on the go at any one time) and, as it happened the work had cost £15,000 and the prize money means he has nice new watertight storage at absolutely no cost!

The Seven Investment Management £15,000 'Conversations' PrizeThe winning painting (right) with the runner up (left)
Note: The prize is actually my idea! It started a couple of years ago when I suddenly realised that virtually the paintings I saw in portrait exhibitions were singleton portraits and some of those were often just the head. It seemed to me that there was some significant deskilling going on when one compared portrait paintings today with paintings in the past when painting people in a group was something which was much more common than it seems to be today. An exhibition I saw prompted the notion in my head that the way to get people painting portraits of groups of people was to focus on the notion of the conversation piece and to have a rather big prize as an added incentive!  

So I started talking to people about it - and talked to the people at the NPG re. the BP Portrait Award as well as people at the Mall Galleries and the RP.  I had in mind a little healthy competition! I was convinced one of them would see the wisdom of stretching artists to create more interesting portraits. Plus of course it expands the scope for more portrait commissions!  

I'm very pleased by the calibre of the paintings selected for the exhibition - I'd be very surprised if they don't generate a few commissions! I'd particularly like to thank the Mall Galleries and the RP for running with the idea and Seven Management for providing the sponsorship - it's absolutely fantastic to see my idea come to fruition!

The £10,000 Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture and the RP Gold Medal 

for the most distinguished prize in the exhibition

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Bigger Picture Exhibition

This is going to be a bit of a picture oriented post about the The Bigger Picture exhibition being held at Lauderdale House for the artists participating in the Big Painting Challenge.

8 of the 10 artists exhibiting
(Left to right) Paul Bell, Alison Stafford, Anthea Lay, Jan Szymczuk, Anne Blankson-Hemans,
Claire Parker, Heather Harding and Richard Salter
The PV was tonight and was excellent - lots of people, good music plus drinks and nibbles - and the art's is definitely worth taking a look at. These are the details of the exhibition
  • Exhibition Dates: 15th - 26th April 2015
  • Exhibition Venue: Lauderdale House, Highgate Hill, Waterlow Park, London N6 5HG (tel : 020 8348 8716)
  • Exhibition Open: Wed-Fri 11am-4pm; Sunday 10am-5pm
Plus there's a special "Meet the Artists" Event on Sunday 26th April between 11 - 5 p.m

Here's some of the artists with their work

Paul Bell: website | blog | Facebook | Twitter
Paul can certainly paint an impressive canvas that carries across a room!

Paul commented that quite a lot of the time during the Challenge programme he'd have rather been on much bigger canvases. We had an interesting discussion about ways in which the programme could be improved - we were both rather keen on it being a little less stiff and formulaic.

Anthea Lay: Facebook
I loved Anthea's palette knife landscapes - her two small marine scenes are particularly effective. I rather liked Anthea's approach to marketing - she sells her paintings via her local WI market stall which I thought was a brilliant idea for people painting local scenes.

Claire Parker: website | Facebook | Twitter
Claire has a very impressive portrait on show. These and her drawings of people persuaded me that her future lies in figures and portraits. She's now coming up the end of Year 2 at Clare College, Cambridge. In the autumn she will start her year abroad for her languages degree before completing her final year the year after that.  Lots of time to reflect on where to go next with her art.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Who will win the NEW £15,000 'Conversations Prize'?

This year the Annual Exhibition of the of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters has a brand new prize - the £15,000 "Conversations" Prize sponsored by Seven Management.
A Conversation piece allows for a scene of two or more characters interacting, with each other and/or with the viewer.
This new prize was announced on this blog last Autumn - see A new £15,000 prize for portrait painting (08 Oct 2014). I was lobbying hard for this new prize before it was announced and I'm really pleased to see that at last we have some quality portraits of more than one person in a painting!  I was beginning to think the expertise was dying out!

Selected Artists

You can see the artwork selected for the exhibition on the competition's webpage (keep scrolling down) and the exhibit will be hung in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries.

The artists selected and shortlisted for the Conversations Prize are listed below

Shot by Ned by Peter Brown
137cm x 107cm £14,000
Do read the narrative which accompanies this scene of family life.
Peter is one of a few artists I know who is a prolific painter of scenes of groups of people.
Some may be surprised that Pete didn't submit another of his Family Breakfast table paintings
- of which I have seen a few!
Then there's the family at play in the artist's studio genre....... ;)

At Edmund's House by Emma Faludy 
oil on canvas, 110 cm x 161 cm, £7,000
I think Emma has produced an impressive painting from a rather different perspective than most
Ruth and Scampy by Joe Ongie
oil, 91cm x 91cm £1,500
I did wonder whether anybody would include an animal
- and anybody who has ever known a cat know what good listeners they can be!
This just struck me a wonderfully authentic portrait.
The announcement as to who has won the prize will be made at the Private View on Wednesday and I'll be there and trying to get a photo of the winner with their painting!


You can see the artwork selected for the main exhibition on the exhibition microsite - scroll down to see all the images which are on 6 pages.
The Annual Exhibition opens to the public on Thursday 16th April and continues until Friday 1st May. The exhibition will occupy the Main Gallery, North Gallery & Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries. Admission is £3 (£2.50 concession and free to Friends of Mall Galleries, National Art Pass holders and under 18s)

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