Tuesday, January 17, 2017

BBC's NEW Big Painting Challenge

The Big Painting Challenge on the BBC - last seen in 2015 - is back on our screens - starting in mid-February 2017.

Below I look at what remains the same and what's different in Series 2 - in the context of what's IN and what's OUT!

What's the same?

  • It's still an art competition on television!
  • It's going to be broadcast on BBC1 (and iPlayer)
  • It still has 10 participants. I'm guessing that those selected will 'tick box' the varying dimensions of 'being representative' of a diverse UK community in terms of gender, geography, age and other aspects of diversity.

So what's different?

New presenters Mariella Fristrup and Rev. Richard Coles


  • OUT - Six themed episodes with artists with different levels of experience and varying use of media tackling different subject matter each week
  • IN - A six-week artistic 'boot camp' - where artists learn new skills each week


  • OUT - Judging solely by Judges Daphne Todd OBE and Lachlan Goudie
  • IN - This time around 
    • the public get to have some sort of input 
    • plus there will be three judges. Daphne and Lachlan are also joined by Dr. David Dibosa
    • BUT the Judges still have the final say on who gets eliminated.
At the end of each episode, the contestants' work will be exhibited to members of the public before three judges - Dr David Dibosa, Lachlan Goudie and Daphne Todd - decide which contestant will be eliminated.

Studio / Atelier

  • IN - a nod in the direction of the atelier system. Participants will get guidance around different media and techniques. 
  • IN - Added in to the mix are two mentors - Pascal Anson and Diana Ali
    • located in separate studios 
    • providing contenders with guidance  through various painting challenges (sounds like the voice tutors for those in singing competitions to me)

Bottom line, it seems to me there has been a concerted effort to introduce different perspectives on art from both practice and diversity perspectives.

The idea is that the Mentors will guide the 10 contestants through different disciplines such as portraiture, landscape and still life - but will also push participants out of their comfort zones.

I think it's very likely that these mentor sessions will also be independently available on iPlayer.

I think it's more likely that progress through the rounds may rely LESS on whether or not you happen to be skilled in the medium in use or subject matter that particular week. (Certainly some of the decisions as to who went last time seemed much more down to skill with a medium than overall art talent).


  • OUT are Una Stubbs and Richard Bacon
  • IN are Mariella Frostrup and the Reverend Richard Coles - neither are particularly known for connection to painting - however Mel and Sue and baking wasn't an obvious connection either! 

Blog Analysis

The BBC didn't know this - but they do now! 

As last time (see below) I'll be watching every programme and offering my comments on what happened.

For those who want to revisit the 2015 Big Painting Challenge you can find all my past blog posts still available - and listed below!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Calendar of Major Art Society Open Exhibitions in 2017 - and the need for change!

I have a page on this blog dedicated to UK Art Societies: Open Exhibitions 2017-18. This has just been updated for 2017

It now includes:
  • a calendar of deadlines for entries by month in 2017
  • summary details of ALL the open exhibitions in 2017 of ALL the major national and regional art art societies in the UK - organised by:
    • FBA Societies at the Mall Galleries
    • Societies based at the Bankside Gallery
    • Other UK Art Societies - subject specific
    • Other UK Art Societies - media specific
    • Other UK Art Societies - artist specific
    • Other major UK Art Societies not based in London
  • Tips for entering open exhibitions
Below I take a look at "how open is open" and explain why I'll be counting and changing my reviews of open art exhibitions in 2017.

View of an open art exhibition at the Mall Galleries

Reviewing "how open is open?" - an innovation for 2017

The purpose of an open entry

The open entry to an annual exhibition organised by an art society provides:
  • the art society with its life blood of future members.  
  • a stimulus to some 'resting' members to raise their game
  • a venue for emerging artists to raise the profile of their art and interest both galleries and art collectors

What an open entry art exhibition is not

The open entry is NOT a cash cow - used primarily to subsidise an exhibition of members' work.

If it is treated as such - or appears to artists to be used as such - then it
  • diminishes the credibility of the society and verges on deceit
  • attracts adverse and critical comment; and 
  • credible future members will be more inclined to market their artwork elsewhere - online and/or with other open exhibitions/competitions which are much more transparent as to the chances of being selected.

How serious is an art society about its open exhibition?

Speaking personally, an open exhibition for me should be:
  • broadly speaking 50:50 (members:open).  
  • 60:40 is OK but could be improved
  • whereas 75:25 (and worse) is NOT and needs action.
Others may have other views.

My notion of the right sort of ratio is based on 
  • the notion that an annual exhibition need not be the only exhibition an art society holds - and other exhibitions can be member only. 
  • if you describe something as an open exhibition then that needs to be a dominant characteristic of the exhibition - otherwise the Advertising Standards Authority might have something to say. 
From a consumer perspective there are some key indicators of how serious an art society is about making its annual exhibition genuinely open. These are very easy to observe online - before, during and after an exhibition. 

I look to see whether or not the society:
  • has a website page dedicated to the exhibition
  • makes sure its exhibition page is current and up to date
  • gives artists plenty of notice  of deadlines and requirements of entries
  • sells the benefits of exhibiting with the society OR just focuses on the terms and conditions of entry.
  • uses social media to remind people about the exhibition - and shows people the work done by its artist members
Bottom line, a number of art societies have some considerable work they need to do to convey they are serious about their open exhibitions.

However I'd like to highlight two art societies which do well with respect to their website information for non-members:
RSMA Open Exhibition 2016 - in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries

Why open exhibitions need to change

There have been a number of changes in the last 11 years that I've been writing this blog

  • Emerging artists now have many more opportunities to market their art direct to the art buyer/ collector than they did some 10-15 years ago
  • the entry process for open exhibitions has changed and become much more accessible. Digital entry is now the norm.
  • the number of open entry artworks selected and hung seem to reduced quite significantly in some of the open exhibitions I review. I'm not entirely sure why this is. It's maybe related to the fact that some societies have downsized the exhibition to make it more economical to run - but without maintaining the artworks hung ratio of members to open entries.  Their focus seems to have been on keeping members happy in the short term rather than on the long term well-being of the Society (see below).
It seems to me that some of the basic concepts and processes underpinning "the Open Exhibition" need to be revisited, reviewed and updated to keep them very relevant to those who aspire to become professional artists - and future members of the art societies.

The need to have a "business rethink" is particularly relevant to those societies with an ageing profile of members (and both they and I know who they are!) These are the societies that have a critical need to create a strategy to:
  • sustain the art society over time
  • maintain a better balance of members across the age ranges
  • grow volunteers within its member base to enable more active exhibiting by the society - in galleries and online
That in essence means working towards enlarging the open entry not diminishing it!  Younger and more digitally active/aware artists need to become members!

The need to be more transparent

So I've decided to create a bit of a stimulus by starting to count and analyse the open entries in a systematic and transparent way i.e. I'll publish the numbers.

Many of the art competitions are now completely explicit now as to the:
  • number of entries received
  • number of entries pre-selected
  • number of entries selected for the exhibition.
It's no longer good enough to take money off people for entering their artwork in an open without providing some context as to how likely it is that their artwork will be selected i.e. what percentage of entries get hung in the exhibition.

NEW FOR 2017: I shall be:
  • trying to find out the number of entries submitted to an open exhibition
  • counting the number of artworks selected for hanging from the open entry
  • calculating what percentage of the exhibition is selected from the open entry. 
  • noting the ratio of members' artworks to open entries.
For example, the Pastel Society has selected 100 artworks from the open entry for their annual exhibition which is held next month.  I'll be calculating the rest of the numbers once I've seen the exhibition and the catalogue.

Can you help?

I'll be more than happy if artists round the country want to join in with this review of "How open is an open?" and do the same count for exhibitions I can't get to. 

Or just send me the catalogues if its clear who are members and non-members!  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Making A Mark is a Top 10 Art Blog in the UK 2017

Making A Mark has been identified (yet again) as a TOP 10 ART BLOG IN THE UK.

This time the company giving my blog this award are called Vuelio and they are marketing/PR/communications company who realise the importance of blogs to connecting with specific target audiences.

This company's Social Media Index has Making A Mark ranked at 6 in the UK.
6. Making a MarkAuthored by artist and writer Katherine Tyrrell, Making a Mark is one of the top art blogs with 10 million page views. Described as a go-to for punters and artists alike, this blog includes annual itineraries of major UK art exhibitions as welll as in-depth news, analysis and spotlights on new talent.

How Vuelio ranks blogs 

This page explains How does Vuelio decide its Top 10 Blog Ranking - for very many different categories of topics.


  • they've been doing this since 2008
  • it's calculated according to an ever-evolving algorithm
  • The methodology takes into consideration a number of factors including social sharing, topic-related content, post frequency, social media influence, traffic, design and interactivity.
  • "Our database is constantly updating, as it draws on real-time information about media properties and the influencers responsible for them"

I'd love to know what they're using as factors. The two other indices which rate Making A Mark both publish their factors - and one of them identified relative rankings (even if it gets it wrong for MAM because it uses the Alexa ranking for the blogspot.com site as opposed to the blogspot.co.uk site - because it assumes all sites are American!  VERY annoying!). Some time I may consider switching the domain URL to a .com - it would make a huge difference to rankings!

However to be honest while the awards are nice to have, it's always nicer to get the personal words of appreciation - and to see the traffic numbers and know how many people think my blog is worth visiting.

The Top 10 Art Blogs in the UK

Do take a look at the other art blogs which also made it to the top ten.  The ones I rate as art blogs are:

  • Jackson's Art Blog - they really make an effort and are an excellent example of how a retailer can do so much more than punt their wares
  • Art History News - this is the blog by Bendor Grosvenor who's the chap who turns up on the BBC and does techie things with paintings which they are trying to identify and verify. he also knows a lot about art history and what's new in that area of interest.
  • We make money not art - This blog has been around slightly longer than Making A Mark! It's had a very snazzy makeover since I last looked. It's an occasional read for me but it's more interesting than most although I have to pick and choose the things I want to read. It's written by RĂ©gine Debatty who is a writer, curator and critic and an an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art in London.
My criticism of the Vuelio listing generally (which I've already told them) is that:
  • it is far too London-centric and urban/street art oriented 
  • there are lots of other blogs around which reflect a more diverse perspective on art in the UK. 
It may be that the street/urban art blogs get massive followings from young oiks with a spray can - but art fundamentally is defined by more than the number of Facebook or Twitter followers you have!

Indie vs Corporates: What's interesting is how many blogs are written by individuals and how many are written by corporate bodies and/or teams.  My personal thought on that topic is that blogs written by individuals should ALWAYS be judged separately from those written by teams.

Let's hear it for the indie effort!

So which blogs do you read which are based in the UK?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trump inauguration - artists to strike or not to strike?

An interesting development in the run-up to 20 January and the new President Elect's inauguration is the notion of artists going on strike!

I was amazed at the number of articles this idea has generated and I'm guessing most of you won't have read them. Some are worth reading if you want to get an idea of the pros and cons for this idea which seems to revolve around when is a strike just a posture rather than an act with real impact.

I decided to line them up in terms of whether they are
  • broadly supportive
  • think the action is futile and/or there are better ways of making a stand
  • just want to report the news and/or haven't made their minds up yet
The article most quoted by other articles!

But first the facts...

A document entitled ‘J20 Art Strike Letter’ has been published for circulation. The letter is addressed to museums, galleries, studios, art schools, and other cultural institutions and is signed by various figures in the art world. These include:
  • artists - including Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman and a lot of people I've never heard of
  • art critics and educationalists - again the names mean nothing to me so I've no idea of their weight or otherwise.
The Art Strike Image
The letter states
We, the undersigned artists and critics, lend our support to the call for an Art Strike on Friday, January 20, 2017, the day that Donald Trump will assume the presidency of the United States.
The call reads:
#J20 Art Strike
  • An Act of Noncompliance on Inauguration Day.
  • No Work, No School, No Business.
  • Museums. Galleries. Theaters. Concert Halls. Studios. Nonprofits. Art Schools.
  • Close For The Day.
  • Hit The Streets. Bring Your Friends. Fight Back.
This is the Facebook Page for the event. I have to say that it doesn't look very promising in terms of numbers who have said they will be involved so far (if you remember these people will be spread across the USA). Thew comments are worth a read!

These are the media articles about the letter and the proposed strike - divided into the different camps.

PRO - it will make a difference

AGAINST - People are posturing and/or there are better ways of making a stand

  • ArtNet News Artists Criticize Proposed Strike for Inauguration Day - The divisive event has art world players debating how to effectively protest Trump. (This is the counterbalance to the first article listed above) 
  • The Guardian (Jonathan Jones) | has responded from across the pond with this article The 'art strike' against Trump is futile – cultural elites cannot effect change - Calling on cultural institutions to close on inauguration day only serves to make the likes of Cindy Sherman and Richard Serra feel good about themselves Very widely quoted by other articles. Maybe significant he's the only art critic who is not American who works for a liberal newspaper? I'm very much behind a lot of what he says - see below for an extract.
Yet an art strike is just about the least effective idea for resisting Trump that I have heard. The American left is in for a long, wretched period of irrelevance if this is its idea of striking back. I admire some of these artists greatly, but the notion that museums will help anything by closing their doors, or students will scare middle America into its senses by cutting art classes, tastes not of real hard-fought politics but shallow radical posturing by some very well-heeled and comfortable members of a cultural elite.
I like this response by Weinberg (must be the "child of the 60s" connection!). So much so I'm going to quote his words - with my emphasis in bold
Everyone knows there’s the J20 Art Strike and we’ve been asked what we are going to do. Are we going to be closed?…We are opening our doors as wide open as possible. We are not closing down. We’re actually going to do the opposite: We’re going make the museum free—pay what you wish—all day Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Being a child of the ‘60s, all I could think of was the teach-ins [the response on college campuses, including mine, to the controversial Vietnam War]. So we are going to have a series of discussion groups that will be going on all day long. It will be open for people to bring their own contributions to this, whether their readings, artworks, songs or performances.

This our territory. This is America. And we really need to express what we believe….I feel strongly about the Whitney’s role in that. It is our role not to let them own what we think of as America but to express what we believe is America….

INDEPENDENT - we just report the news

What's also very interesting is the number of institutions and media outlets which have not taken a stand on this or written about it. I think it's presenting a number of them with a bit of a conundrum in terms of which way to lean!

....and what do I think?

My own take on it, for what it's worth, is that a strike only works when it represents a groundswell of opinion which has been grown over time.  

A strike has to be big and it has to be solid to count for anything.

The danger of a strike organised by those who like taking stands on things they feel strongly about - without any existing connection to a wider community - is that it can become a damp squib. In which case it only serves to undermine the perspective of those taking part and emboldens those they may be protesting against.

That's why for my part I think
  • there are more effective ways of making a stand
  • the action taken by the Whitney Museum is far more effective in the long run. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Mall Galleries Call for Entries Checklist 2017 - Federation of British Artists' Exhibitions

The dates for deadlines for submissions, receiving days and exhibition dates for all the 2017 open exhibitions at the Mall Galleries by national art societies - that are Federation of British Artists (FBA) members - are listed below.

Entrance to the the Headquarters of the Federation of British Artists
17 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5BD

All dates have been announced on the Mall Galleries website. The link in the exhibition date below is to the page with all the details of dates and process re. submissions.

If you want a page of relevant dates for all the FBA Societies that you can print out try the 2017 Call for Entries Checklist of Dates pdf file produced by the Mall Galleries.

Note that some exhibitions are shorter or longer and that the dates of some submissions or exhibitions have moved by one week or more.

FBA Exhibitions in 2017

ALL work must be submitted online.

Art Society
Submit Online - DEADLINE
Receiving Day
in 2017
Exhibition Dates
in 2017
(November 2016)
7 January
9 December 2016
21 January
(6 days shorter than 2016)
6 January 2017
11 February
(1week longer than 2016)
20 January 2017
25 February
24 February 2017 earlier than 2016
8 April
30 June 2017
(1 week later than 2016)
5 August
(1 week later than 2016)
(1 day shorter)
21 July 2017
(2 weeks earlier than 2016)
26 August
(2 weeks earlier than 2016)
(1 week earlier / 1 day shorter)
dates not announced
25 August 2017
7 October
30 November - 10 December

The proper Checklist also includes dates for the following:
  • Online Submissions open
  • Login for Results of Online Assessment
  • Check for Results of Panel Assessment
  • Unaccepted Collection of artwork
  • Unsold Collection of artwork

FBA Exhibitions in 2018

The following dates are predictions based on the last two years.

Art Society
Submit Online - DEADLINE
Receiving Day
in 2018
Exhibition Dates
in 2018
November 2017
early January
February - March
December 2017
late January
March - April
January 2018
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