There is a rash of open exhibitions to enter in the next few months and I have to decide what to put in. Oddly it is something I dread… I put the ones I think might fit the bill in a row and agonise over which is the most appropriate. This is especially hard for the open exhibitions run by the various societies. The New English will want something different from the ROI and RBA. Some are easier the RSMA want marine subjects so that narrows it down. The New English which is coming up is a difficult one. I start by looking at the members work. This gives you some idea at least. The NEAC fortunately has a decent selection on line to peruse. The work is pretty wide ranging from landscapes to figure work from some well known artists. I try and imagine what of mine would sit well amongst them. I have quite a few life paintings mostly in watercolour so I will try one of them. Most of my work is cityscape and landscape so the other two have to be drawn from there. There are not many watercolours in the members work so it has to be oils. The trouble here is what I think is a good painting will not necessarily do well when briefly glanced at by a panel… especially at the end of a long day. I have one painting I reckon is interesting and a bit quirky but it is in sombre tones so designed for a close up look. Something that it will likely not get. Also anything in subtle close tones is unlikely to get attention, or indeed in muted colours. Once I have put the pictures that might fit in a row I usually have a crisis of confidence. Pictures get removed from the line and others substituted.
Last year I put in what by my lights were six of my best watercolours from the last year or so into the digital entry for the RI. Not one single one made it through. Yet when I went to the exhibition with the best will in the world I could not see why not. Looking at the successful entries from non members I did my very best to see why the ones chosen had been decided to have merit. Quite a few indeed most I could make a half decent case for, but quite a few others seemingly had few qualities of either skill or expression. This has made me rather suspicious of the digital entry method and I won’t go that route again. I suspect they are skimmed through in a very casual manner. We will see if getting the real thing before the jury has a better result. It is quite hard to write on this subject without sounding like sour grapes, but I have the feeling that the process of selection in some cases is not all it could be, especially on the digital entry.
I have got into the RSMA as I mentioned before, and also into the last 50 for the artist of the year for Artist and Illustrator magazine. This was a bit of a surprise as I put two pictures in a rush at the last minute as I had forgotten the cut off date.
The ROI is another tricky one. I need to put in studio pictures which are a bit thin on the ground this year. The subject matter is represented in the current membership with some good paintings. Is it a disadvantage that mine fit the same genre? I have no idea! The RBA is an odd one much more variety, probably a lower overall standard, but that is hardly surprising as it has a larger membership. Another thing I ponder is whether it is worth joining any of these institutions. Looking at the average age of members in all of them I do wonder how they will survive. It will take three or four years to join any of them at least no matter how good the work. Three years of getting pictures in the open shows is a requirement for most, which I would feel is a pretty poor guide as to a painter is good or not. So by the time I could apply I would be quite ancient myself! I do wonder why they are seemingly not proactive in seeking out talented artists to join. There are very many excellent painters who are not a member of any of these institutions which would perhaps not have been the case a 100 years ago.
They are sadly the very last remnants of organisations for skill based painting and even they are under attack from the Serota tendency. Year by year the level of excellence falls, no more is this true in watercolour where the RWS is quite happy to exhibit random splashes and the once very grand Royal Institute that had its own huge building in Piccadilly, is missing many of the really good practitioners from its ranks. Not that both organisations don’t have some very fine painters, but you would think they would be a bit more keen on getting an overall higher standard of membership. The days are gone when painters were desperate to get membership and those letters after your name really meant something. They do not even seem to do much of a job in promoting their craft. I hope I am wrong but I fear it is inevitable that they will fade away as their relevance decreases. It is such a pity as observational skill based painting has never needed organisations to bat on their side more.
Well hot off the press all my paintings for the New English Art Club were rejected, which means I got it wrong yet again. I will try the ROI and the RI, but if no luck I may give up on the Mall shows as they are not, I am starting to feel, really worth the bother. I was told by others that they were somewhat of a lottery, but didn’t altogether believe it. I suspect they were right and I have been wasting time and effort better spent else where. It is such a pity that it is almost impossible to find venues to show your work other than online. With all paintings the online image is quite poor compared to the real thing so only a part of what you strive for is ever seen. My own fault of course for being wedded to a moribund area of an almost dead art!
Brass Monkey season is with us again. Our first outing to Green Park. The forecast was poor but as so often happens the actual day was very paintable.
I loved the wet paths and the soft light. There was a constant stream of people crossing the park to work, too early for the tourists. 10in by 16in. Oils.
A very quick sketch I love this corner of Green Park but not quite found the composition I want. This is nearer but in the evening the light should be better
lighting up the famous Ritz Hotel. 8in by 10in Oils.
Last one, this is Shepherd Market. Quite a quick sketch so rather crude but I think there is a studio picture here somewhere.
14in by 10in Oils.
I’ve painted this view in Deptford quite a few times as it is right outside my door which makes it easier to catch in good light. It is a very ordinary road
but has a way of looking totally different depending on the day. I love the changing human activity as well. This is very early in the morning. It’s great to
do a few studio watercolours as the studio process of thinking things through makes effects possible that would be very hard en plein air.
1/2 Sheet Arches Rough.
Here is a plein air for comparison. What you loose in control you often gain in freshness. The other price is that plein air
produces a much higher proportion of waste paper! This one was a bit of a struggle as the paper would not dry then the sun
unexpectedly came full out and changed the scene so much I had to stop. I was mostly done so only 5min tinkering got it
finished. It is Carlton House Terrace near the back of the Mall Galleries.
Another studio painting, I risked my life to get the photo as the traffic accelerates like the beginning of a motor race when the lights change! Quite wide
as I am using paper off a roll at present. Sooner or later I must try some seriously big paintings… This is the Mall of course, so all the paintings have a
Mayfair feeling in this post. 8in by 19in Watercolour on Arches rough.