Monday, June 29, 2015

The John Ruskin Prize 2015: Call for Entries

The John Ruskin Prize 2015 invites artists to submit entries in a range of 2D media in response to the theme: ‘Recording Britain Now: Society’. The First Prize is £5,000 and there's a runner up prize of £2,000 and a student prize of £1,000.

The theme - Recording Britain Now

The theme for the third year of this competition is ‘Recording Britain Now: Society’.
This year we invite emerging and established artists to respond to the theme: Recording Britain Now: Society, to re-assess their practice and focus on the prevalent social issues of 2015/16. In the same way that Recording Britain sought to map familiar townscapes and countryside under threat, this will be an invitation to engage with a society in rapid transition. (my red)

Recording Britain Now - The History

Starting last year, the competition is riffing on Kenneth Clark's initiative during the second world war to "Recording Britain Now". This was an initiative which was an extension of the Official War Artist Scheme and I guess was the artistic side of the wish to record how life was being lived in the UK on the outbreak of war.

The aim was formally expressed as:
‘secure a record of historic scenes, site and buildings which may be endangered through enemy action or by utilitarian encroachment.’
  • The collection of artwork which resulted from the initiative is now housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It includes more than 1,500 watercolours and drawings "of lives and landscapes at a time of imminent change".  If you visit the Prints and Drawings Study Room you make a request to see the artwork from the Recording Britain project (click the link to see examples of work in the collection)
  • The Scottish end of the 'Recording Scotland' project is housed in the Museum Collections Unit at the University of St. Andrews.

Recording Britain Now - now!

I think it's a splendid idea to continue with this theme! For the 2014 competition the theme was very broad
The theme of the second prize exhibition is Recording Britain Now. Artists were invited to 
...present fresh, contemporary visions of their urban, rural or social environment.
The subsequent exhibition was shown at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery for five months accompanying the V&A tour of Recording Britain. Then it moved to the gallery Trinity Buoy Wharf. in East London (next to the Royal Drawing Schools's annexe) for a second showing in November - which is when I saw it - see Recording Britain Now - exhibition and prizewinner.

Winner of the John Ruskin Prize 2014Slowly creeping by Maggie Hargreaves
Here it is (right) hanging in the exhibition at The Electrician's Shop Gallery
- the door gives some scale
The winning drawing was purchased by Architect Mike Davies, a founding partner of the Richard Rogers Partnership who has worked on the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Millenium Dome now known as the O2).

Recording Britain in 2015

What makes it different for 2015 is the emphasis on "society". I'm guessing that might be because a lot of the work in last year's show had lots of unpeopled landscapes!

The John Ruskin Prize - how to enter

Who can enter

The John Ruskin Prize is open to anyone 18 or over, resident or domiciled in the UK.

What you can enter

The work entered MUST be:
  • two dimensional 
  • relief work and book art are also eligible 
  • Time-based media, photography and sculpture are not eligible.
  • should not exceed 2.5 metres in any direction (that's 8.2 feet for the old imperialists amongst you).  You might want to note that the work which won last year was BIG!
  • how large some of the drawings are
  • how some large drawings are not framed but rather are suspended from fishing wire lopped through small bulldog clips which attach to the sheet of paper. This seems to be have become an accepted way of showing large works on paper - if for no other reason than everybody avoids the problems with weight and the risk of broken glass!
Recording Britain Now - exhibition and prizewinner
  • must be available for inclusion in the two exhibitions (see dates below)
  • made in the last five years
  • represented by a high resolution jpeg image submitted with the entry form and fee


  • Deadline for Entries: 23 November 2015
  • Notification re. selection: 15 December 2015

How to enter

  • decide how many artworks you are entering (the fees reduce as the number of artworks increase)
  • complete the online entry form at the bottom of
  • (Note you can also print out the form, apply offline and pay by cheque)
  • complete the image details - title, date, media and dimensions
  • submit the form
  • pay the fees via PayPal.

The Selection Panel

The Selection Panel's job is to
  • identify and shortlist 15 artists for the Prize and 
  • select work by them for inclusion in 2 showings of the Recording Britain Now: Society exhibition.
For the 2015 competition the panel comprises:
The competition is organised by the Campaign for Drawing in collaboration with the Guild of St George and The Pilgrim Trust.

The Exhibition

The exhibition can be viewed in 2016 at:
  • The New Art Gallery Walsall, Recording Britain Now: Society, 26 February – 17 April 2016
  • The Electrician’s Shop (Gallery), Trinity Buoy Wharf, London in early summer 2016.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Do Hobby Artists need to complete Tax Returns?

This weekend I got my Notice to complete a tax return from HM Revenue & Customs. It shouted at me "It's time to complete your tax return"!

My tax return - with the personal bits removed
Do you think you need to complete Tax Return?

Do hobby artists need to complete Tax Returns?

The simple answer is "it depends".

In the UK, a hobby artist can find out if they have to complete a tax return by completing a very simple questionnaire called Check if you need to fill in a Self Assessment tax return which is available on the main government website.

Here are some reasons why people who are not full time professional artists living in the UK might need to complete a tax return:
  • you were self-employed - you can deduct allowable expenses. I'm retired and self-employed (on a part-time basis) so I complete a tax return.  All serious artists should be completing a tax return.
  • you got £2,500 or more in untaxed income (contact the helpline if it was less than £2,500)
  • you had income from abroad that you needed to pay tax on - for all those selling artwork or otherwise generating income outside the UK - no matter how little money you made and no matter which account it's currently sitting in.
Essentially the first difference between being self-employed and casual income is the degree of intent and organisation. Income might qualify as casual income (eg hobby artist) if making AND SELLING art is occasional and/or not very organised and/or of very low value (say, under £2,500 per year). The second difference is the extent to which you can claim expenses. You can claim expenses related to running a business if that's what you are doing.
You are probably self-employed if you:
  • run your own business and take responsibility for its success or failure
  • have several customers at the same time
  • can decide how, when and where you do your work 
  • are free to hire other people to do the work for you or help you at your own expense
  • provide the main items of equipment to do your work
You can reference Tax Tips for Artists on my Art Business - for Artists website - which includes advice for hobby artists from those who advise about tax.

Do read my Ten Tax Tips for Artists and Ten More Tax Tips for Artists

Don't Forget

The tax year is from 6 April to 5 April the following year
If you get an email or letter from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) telling you send a return, you must send it - even if you don’t have any tax to pay.
Plus you must pay tax on all earned income (net of allowable expenses) above your personal tax allowance.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Add Value: take fewer photos and draw more

This is a video from The School of Life which is well worth watching if you've ever wondered what's good about drawing from life and why photography can get in the way of appreciating what we see.

It focuses on:
  • how cameras get in the way of looking
  • how drawing enables us to see more in the world around us
Study of Gneiss Rock, Glenfinlass by John Ruskin
Pen, brown ink, ink wash (lamp-back) and bodycolour,
47.7 x 32.7 cm.
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England
You can find the text of the narrative here On the Importance of Drawing page on their website
‘Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a lane and trees; he will perceive the trees to be green, though he will think nothing about it; he will see that the sun shines, and that it has a cheerful effect; and that’s all! But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness. He looks up, and observes how the showery and subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the air is filled with the emerald light. He will see here and there a bough emerging from the veil of leaves, he will see the jewel brightness of the emerald moss and the variegated and fantastic lichens, white and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then come the cavernous trunks and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the steep bank, whose turfy slope is inlaid with flowers of a thousand dyes. Is not this worth seeing? Yet if you are not a sketcher you will pass along the green lane, and when you come home again, have nothing to say or to think about it, but that yo u went down such and such a lane.
John Ruskin, quoted in The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
I think Alain de Botton is also narrating The School of Life video.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

BP Portrait 2015 - Artists with their paintings

Here are some of the artists who have a portrait in the BP Portrait Exhibition. I've ordered the artists by country. Click the images to see a larger version.

You can also view the websites of more of the artists selected for this year's exhibition via my earlier post Selected Artists - BP Portrait Award 2015.

Leslie Watts (Canada)

Charlotte and Emily by Leslie Watts
Egg Tempera on claybord
This is the delightful Canadian artist Leslie Watts with her portrait of "Charlotte and Emily". It's a diptych painted using egg tempera on clayboard. She had the arched frames made specially and the reverse of the portrait is padded and upholstered with beautiful red material. If you get to the exhibition take a peek - you can just see it if you put your head against the wall. Plus note the uncanny way the girls come out of their frames! This is her blog Leslie Watts Portraits and this is her Twitter account.

If you're wondering about Leslie's T shirt, the motif belongs to a new art society - the International Midnight Painters' Society - ask her about it via Twitter!

Jorge Abbad Jaime de Aragón (Spain)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: New English Art Club Annual Exhibition 2015

In 2015, the Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club has moved from the "last exhibition before Christmas" slot to the "opens at the same time as the RA Summer Exhibition" slot. Which, to my mind makes a lot of sense. The NEAC were after all the anglicised version of the Impressionist revolt against the anglican and academic equivalent of the Paris Salon ie the Royal Academy of Arts. (You can read more about the illustrious history of NEAC on their website).

I went to see it last week - and apologies for the late review but my broadband got caught up in roadworks which it didn't like, plus I got taken out by the tiredness associated with the severe pain from a shoulder disorder! It's not been a good week.

View of the West Gallery
More from the West Gallery
There are 397 artworks in the exhibition which is hung throughout the three galleries. A further 12 works were shortlisted for The Haworth Prize for landscape painting and drawing and are hung in the Threadneedle Space
The Prize, sponsored by The Haworth Trust is for young artists (aged 35 years and under) living and working in the North of England, creating work inspired by their surroundings.
The Haworth Prize for landscape painting and drawing12 shortlisted works selected from 100 entries

Information for artists contemplating an entry next year

Over 1,000 artworks were submitted digitally as part of the open entry. Of these some 300 were called in for further review and 94 were selected to hang in the exhibition. That means:
  • odds of being hung if you enter are slightly less than 10%
  • odds of being hung if you are asked to submit work to the gallery is a bit less than 1:3 which is pretty good and definitely worth the shipping costs.
I'll write more about the exhibition and the prizewinners below but first - for the skimmers - here are the details of the exhibition

Facts about the exhibition

Incidentally, there appears to be no specific page for the exhibition with a commentary on the website. While the Home Page provides the very basic details, the only link in the exhibitions section of the website points to the call for entries page on the Mall Galleries website. I think this is a major omission for an important event which needs to be remedied.


I noted that there were fewer prizes than in the past. On the other hand, it's worth noting that one of the things about the NEAC exhibition is that it has some pretty decent cash prizes.

The Mall Galleries website has a dedicated page for the prizewinners which includes excellent large images so I won't replicate them here.

The prizewinners are:

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