Thursday, March 26, 2015

Annual Exhibition of Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours #2 - Open Entry

Yesterday's post 203rd Annual Exhibition of Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours #1 was about the prizewinners plus the events and free events and activities being held in the Mall Galleries between now and when the exhibition closes on 11 April.

Today's post is going to focus on the Open Entry and paintings in the exhibition that I liked.

Paintings by Lilias August RI - I loved the one at the top called Seven Brushes
you can see more of her still life paintings on her website
A different kind of still life paintings by the ever popular Shirley Trevena RI
Shirley's books are in the Mall Galleries bookshop
Paintings by John Raynes, Bob Rudd and Colin KentBob Rudd kindly told me how he achieved the saturation in his paintings!
RI Members small works - North Gallery
It was pleasing to see that the smaller paintings hung in this room were ones
of a similar standard to the rest of an artist's work
One important point to make before I start is that I very much liked the way that there's a much better mix of paintings and members work across both the West and North Galleries.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

203rd Annual Exhibition of Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours #1 - Prizewinners and Events

This year I'm doing two posts about the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours  (RI) at the Mall Galleries.
  • this one is about the prizewinners (links in the artists' names are to their websites) and 
  • the events in the gallery - which focus on members who are going to be demonstrating, showing their sketchbooks, giving tours of the exhibition or just answering any queries people may have. All events are free with admission to the exhibition
  • and, if you're interested in exhibiting with the RI you can find links to my reviews of previous exhibitions at the end.

Four and half hours into The Private View yesterday and it's still busy!

The exhibition is, as usual, a very good standard. More importantly, this is very clearly an art society which likes exhibiting paintings which look like they were painted with the use of water! While there are some works in acrylic, most are painted using proper watercolour paint and a few also use gouache.  I'm a big fan of watercolour paintings and I like this exhibition!

You can read the e-catalogue and seee some of the paintings on Issuu

The bonus for those coming to London to see the exhibition is that they can see two exhibitions by watercolour art societies at the same time as the Spring Exhibition by members of the Royal Watercolour Society opens on Friday

The RI exhibition at the Mall Galleries is the larger of the two. If your first love is watercolour and you plan to visit both, I definitely recommend you start with the RI exhibition as the RWS exhibition is more a "works done by RWS members - including other media" than a watercolour show per se.

The exhibition opened to the public today (25 March) and continues until 11th April and is open from 10am to 5pm daily. The price of admission is £3.00; £2.50 concessions, (Free to Friends of Mall Galleries, National Art Pass holders and under 18s).


This is an art society which doesn't award all its prizes to members. A number of artists whose work was selected via the open entry were also selected to receive an award.

President Andy Wood presenting Turner Medal to Deborah Walker RI 2015
President Andy Wood PRI presenting Turner Medal to Deborah Walker RI 
Photo courtesy Ted Sepple
Deborah Walker RI won three prizes - including the Turner Medal at the Awards Ceremony yesterday. Her large painting 'Detail' was responsible for all these prizes and is currently enjoying pride of place in the middle of the end wall of the West Gallery. It took a long time to get this photo because of the number of people studying it - inscribed into the painting are lots of notes which are partially readable.

Detail by Deborah Walker 
Her three prizes were:
  • The Turner Medal (a medal, in honour of Turner, awarded to a member of the RI and the RWS on an annual basis)
In 1856 J. M. W. Turner bequeathed the sum of £20,000 pounds for a gold medal for landscape painting. From 1859 until 2008 the Royal Academy awarded the Turner Medal every two years at their Summer Exhibition. Since then the award of this much prized Medal is an annual event jointly organised by the two senior royal watercolour societies; one is given to a member of the RI and the other to the RWS. Only two medals are struck (from bronze) each year and are engraved with the year of their making. 
  • The Escoda Barcelona Award (A set of Escoda Brushes for an outstanding landscape painting) and 
  • the Anthony J. Lester Art Critic Award (an outstanding artwork chosen by the art critic and broadcaster)

Deborah's background is she was awarded a first class honours degree in Fine Art from De Montfort University in 1985 and was in April 2011 was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. You can follow her on Twitter @DebWalkerRI

Other Award Winners

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Threadneedle Space Exhibition

This week Lachlan Goudie and Tim Benson are exhibiting new paintings in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries.

I've seen quite a few exhibitions in the Space now by FBA Artists and others and have always wondered what's involved in running your own exhibition - so this week I asked!

[Note: This post has been updated since first published last night - I thought of a few more things to say and show when I woke up!]

Lachlan Goudie and Tim Benson with New Paintingsin the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries
continues until 28 March
Tim came up with the idea of putting on an exhibition.

Motivation related to testing out whether he could do as well as a gallery at selling his artwork. Renting a gallery space instantly eliminates the 50% commission on sales which most galleries charge. Plus if you put on your own show, you get to curate the show and decide what work is hung and how it is displayed!

Still Lifes by Lachlan Goudie and Landscape by Tim Benson
The rationale for using the Threadneedle Space is that it's a great location with good footfall - plus it also has the spinoff of visitors who have come to see the other exhibitions. It's also got a great hanging team and the reception staff can handle the sales.  Moreover as FBA artists they're eligible for a discount on the weekly fee for the Threadneedle Space (£7k + VAT).

As Tim pointed out for one artist, even with a discount, that's still quite a hefty sum. However it makes much more sense if you do a Joint Show with another artist. For example, it makes it very easy to calculate how many paintings you need to sell to offset the costs of an exhibition and move into profit.  Plus two people can share the workload involved.

The rationale for their partnership for the show was that they were of a similar age, their work was sympathetic i.e. bold, colourful and painterly; their subject matter was complementary. Plus they are both members of the ROI.

Rocky Headland, Cap Spartel, Tangier
Tim Benson VPROI
Once they had decided to do the show - at the end of August - they asked for a slot. They decided that they wanted to have an exhibition at the same time as an art society generating a lot of traffic - and so they got this week - which coincides with all the people visiting the first week of the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.

Asking for a slot sounds simple. The reality is that all proposals for shows - and the standard of the artwork - are vetted by the Mall Galleries. Not everybody gets offered a slot.......

Aussie Dawn
Tim Benson VPROI
(top) Love and Lies and (bottom) Obsession
Lachlan Goudie ROI

What the Threadneedle Space offers

You can read about the metrics and rates associated with the different Spaces in the Gallery Hire brochure. Their Hire Rates include:
  • Air-conditioned galleries 
  • Alcohol Licence / Café / Cloakroom / Front of house staff 
  • Liaison with gallery management 
  • Lighting: perfect colour rendering & low energy 
  • Receptionist to answer visitor enquiries and process sales (although some art societies I know who hire the North Gallery process their own sales)
  • Security for the artwork (this is not an insignificant concern for the artist running a solo show - it means you don't have to be there all the time - and I have known artists who have lost work when using non-gallery space elsewhere for exhibitions)
  • Basic PA System / Use of LCD display screen and lighting / Wireless internet connection 

What publicity services are on offer

The Gallery rates page does not mention the publicity side of things. However elsewhere in the brochure it makes clear that the your exhibition is included in 
  • the ‘What’s On’ section of the Mall Galleries’ website - which seems to mean you get a page on the website for the event and listing on the main events page as either a current or upcoming exhibition
  • the six monthly 'What’s On?' booklet - avidly read by Mall Galleries regulars and picked up by ad hoc gallery visitors (so long as they provide text and images in time)
  • mentions of current events on the Mall Galleries’ social media platforms (Facebook PageTwitter; YouTube (make a video of your show!) Instagram and Pinterest)
I also checked with the Gallery's Publicity Officer and she confirmed the following:
  • FBA members ONLY are able to have their works online on the Mall Galleries website - as this is a privilege available to members (this service is not available to external hirers)
  • News of exhibitions by external hirers can be included the E-newsletter that goes out to a mailing list of over 17,500 addresses.  The cost for a slot in an e-newsletter is £150 + VAT
  • mail outs of flyers for external hirers is not offered
Third party exhibitions are listed alongside the core exhibitions by the FBA Societies
on the Mall Galleries website event page

The actual Event Page on the Mall Galleries website
- featuring core info plus all the paintings in the show

This is an Instagram image from another show in the Threadneedle Space by Andrew Stock, the ex President of the Society of Wildlife Artists.
A photo posted by Mall Galleries (@mallgalleries) on

Their hire rates do NOT include:

  • Commission. Artists will be pleased to know that this is a "no commission" option - instead you pay a fee for the hire of the space and gallery services. Essentially you are paying for the overheads that the commission pays for - but in a different way which gives you more control over your own exhibition
  • Mail out of any flyers for the hire of the gallery by third parties  
  • Your Private View 'catering costs' - although I'm sure they can quote you the prices their caterers offer for catering for a PV.  However, in a small space it's not difficult to organise your own glasses hire and buy in wine etc.
  • VAT - this is always additional to the fee. VAT on sales is not specifically mentioned in the brochure, however all sales via the Gallery are always vattable in exactly the same way as they are with any other decent gallery.  That's because VAT is on gross turnover by the gallery and any decent gallery should always be exceeding the VAT threshold on an annual basis!

The Threadneedle Space also has new lighting system which has eliminated the slight cold bluish tinge associated with the first lighting system. The space now looks a lot warmer but the lighting is still neutral for the paintings.

What I like about the space is that the paintings always look good in it - and the polished concrete floor reflects the colours of the paintings!

For the record I really like Tim's landscapes and Lachlan's flowers!


I think getting together with a compatible fellow artist or a small group of friends to explore holding a show in London - in the Threadneedle Space - is an absolute no-brainer given the location, footfall, gallery services and publicity machine on offer. Just so long as you are displaying first rate paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture which are compatible with the space - and you can get a good slot.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: The Big Painting Challenge - Episode 5

The subject matter for the five artists  remaining for the fifth episode of The Big Painting Challenge" was Cityscapes. Liverpool and the River Mersey provided the venue and views for this penultimate round of this televised art competition on BBC1.

Episode 5: The Cityscape Challenge

Episode 5 of the Big Painting Challenge is available on iPlayer

Challenge 1: A painting representing the artist's personal interpretation of Liverpool (watercolours)

The challenge started with the artists getting out and about around the city with cameras and sketchbooks to dins images that inspire them.

I don't know quite why but I have a notion of them experiencing "guided exploration" - something along the lines of being moved around the city by minibus and dropped off at different locations to check out certain possible views. I guess that's because this is a bunch of artists who mostly do no such thing from what I can make out from previous episodes.

I was rather surprised at the subjects people chose to do. I don't think any of them would have said "Liverpool" to me.  Maybe the terraced houses going down to the Mersey are somewhat cliche - however there's an awful lot of that housing in Liverpool!

For some reason, two of the artists (Anne and Claire) completely changed their painting styles for painting in watercolour.

I thought  Paul's watercolour was both disappointing and surprising for a former architectural illustrator - it seemed something and nothing to me.  He readily admitted it hadn't turned out as he intended.  It was described by Lachlan as being more like Trumpton than Toxteth!
It's looking like the village green! Lachlan 
It's awfully pretty, 'lady-like - why?..... It's'nice'. - Daphne Todd
Oh don't say that- Paul 

Challenge 2: Quick Draw - Sketch of the Royal Liver Building Clock Tower from the top of the Cunard Building (using charcoal, pastel and pencil)

Judges were looking for the artists to draw a building at high speed. They also needed to get to grips with the complicated architectural features of the Liver Building and get the proportion and perspective right.

The Clock Tower has the largest clock face in Britain! Una Stubbs told us that the judges were looking for:
  • sketches that captured the monumentality and structure of the building 
  • with accurate depictions of the multiple planes of perspective.
I'm very unclear as to whether or not the artists know what criteria they're going to be judged on BEFORE the assessment.  I know what we're told but are they?

Discussing the masculine and feminine when it comes to drawing buildings
Daphne let rip and Lachlan's face was a picture!
Paul continued to have problems with his quick drawing. It produced one of the best moments of the series so far - at least so far as humour goes.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The growth - and demise - of Etsy?

Etsy is up for sale. It wants to go 'public' - but it also wants to maintain its ethos and credibility. Some would say they lost it some time ago.

There are quite a few articles around at the moment about Etsy. They've been prompted by two things
  • the filing by Etsy of an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of its common stockIn other words Etsy intends to market its stock on the financial markets. When it happens it will be the biggest technology initial public offering (IPO) in New York since 1999. (Guardian)
  • comments about whether or not Etsy can hold on to its "indie" integrity - assuming it's not already lost that long ago
  • lessons to be learned from Etsy's growth. After all if you start out as a small site you want to get bigger don't you? Or do you?
From a personal perspective I find Etsy interesting as its been online for just a bit longer than I've been blogging. I've highlighted it on a regular basis in the past - mainly in relation to how it grew as an independent outlet for art sales as eBay stumbled and then declined as an outlet for independent artists and artisans.
Etsy has grown from a startup built by crafters and for crafters to a juggernaut on the verge of an IPO Grace Dobush
Below you can read about the issues associated with flotation and why $2 BILLION may be realised - possibly at the expense of its credibility and relationship with crafters and artists.

Etsy Mission and Values - are they clear to everybody who matters?

Etsy: Key Stats

Etsy is a marketplace where millions of people around the world connect, both online and offline, to make, sell and buy unique goods. The Etsy ecosystem includes entrepreneurs who sell on our platform, consumers looking to buy unique goods in our marketplace, manufacturers who help Etsy sellers grow their businesses and Etsy employees who maintain our platform.

As an ex-accountant I know full well that it's key stats which get people to take you seriously - and down the bottom of Etsy's About Page we have the numbers.

Here are some key stats for Etsy - as of today's date
  • Founded in 2005
  • 40 million + members (of which a number will be inactive)
  • 1.4 million registered online stores / active sellers - interestingly women account for 86 percent of the sellers
  • 19.8 million active buyers - in nearly every country in the world
  • $1.93B gross merchandise sales in 2014 (I make that an average turnover of $378 dollars per storefront / active seller) and $1.35 billion in gross merchandise sales in 2013.
  • 600+ employees
  • Etsy has made a net loss in each of the last three years. This makes me wonder if the IPO venture is a way-out of the current situation.
  • Huge social following
...and here are the articles about Etsy going 'public'.

The IPO and future prospects for Etsy

Etsy became a Certified B Corporation™ in 2012. This is a label used for companies who maintain social and environmentally responsible business practices.

It's now seeking to become a public company traded on the NASDAQ.

The Etsy announcement

The Newspapers and Online Journals

    1. It hasn’t turned a profit in the past three years… and doesn’t promise one anytime soon.
    2. Costs could even rise more because of the company’s “adherence to our values” and “focus on long-term sustainability.”
    3. Accounting is tricky, but they’re trying to get better at it.
    4. Buyers are increasing, much faster than sellers
    5. People are shopping–and buying–from their phones and tablets.
    6. Etsy set aside 5% of its shares for its community

The dark parallel invoked on Etsy forums is eBay. It has turned itself from an auction site for enthusiastic amateurs into a more conventional ecommerce company. The fear is a profit-oriented Etsy may ditch its principles — probably along with the well-meaning Mr Dickerson — and force merchants to seek shelter elsewhere. Financial Times

The one thing that storeowners need to be very clear about is that Etsy is only reserving 5% of the shares for the Etsy community. The rest will go to Institutional Investors and they will own the company in future. There is no way that the CEO's aspirations as to continuing ethos and values will be endorsed unless they make sound business sense - and money for the investors. That's just the way things work - which is why many other business have chosen instead to develop by remaining private companies and seeking finance in other ways.

One wonders why Etsy didn't choose that option.

Etsy - Authenticity and Integrity

The major change of Etsy policy in 2013 allowed "creative authors/designers" to outsource the making of their products to other people. This was a fundamental move away from the original notion that the artist/crafter both designed AND created the products they sold.

It was seen as a sell-out by many who subsequently left the site. Their view is that the site has abandoned the makers of genuinely hand-made goods.

At the same time Etsy has grown number of people using the site and increased revenues. Revenues grew from $74.6 million (2012) to $125 million (2013) to $195 million in 2014 following the change in policy.
Financially this may make some people very rich, but it is not what Etsy was meant to be about. Artists and crafters are now just window dressing to give the website the appearance that [items] are handmade, but in most cases they are not. They have become the online version of Pottery Barn.Joy Appenzeller Bauer
Sellers have been dissatisfied with Etsy’s policing of mass-manufactured items posing as handmade for a long time, but the site hasn’t seemed receptive to their concerns. An Etsy staffer I met a few years ago dismissed sellers’ questions about Chinese resellers as “kind of racist.” 
Here's a comment by somebody on one of the Guardian articles which to me sums up the nub of the issues which concern many people 
I find it hard to see how Etsy will manage to continue to promote itself as a legitimate venue for artisans, hand-crafters and artists once it has hungry shareholders to feed. I just don't see how the truly artisanal, handmade folks will fit with new corporate masters. Last year, in order to pave the way for their IPO, Etsy changed it's original stipulation that handmade goods be actually made by the seller's own hands. Now this is no longer required: anyone's hands will do, whole third-world sweatshops worth of them. All that is now required is that the seller have some influence on the design process. Traditional Etsians - artists and crafters making unique, labor-intensive, often one-of-a-kind items simply will not fit well into what will have to become the new paradigm, other than by providing ideas for those with sweat-shop staff to copy. I have had a successful Etsy shop for a few years now, but I view the post-IPO Etsy market with skepticism. My2Siamese

Lessons to be learned about how to grow a business

Long, long ago I got my MBA from the London Business School. This is by way of explanation for why I still retain an interest in how people write about the success of companies - and whether those writing still hold true some time down the line.

I will be returning to these articles.....
Of course the other issue is that those seeking to grow their own sites might also learn a thing or two.

Personally I'm wondering how all of this survives in a new investment driven corporate world and whether "growth" is such a wonderful thing.  There are those who are beginning to challenge some of the assumptions of the fundamentals of economic well-being.

and finally......

Here's an extract from a blog post at the end of last year by Chad Dickerson, the chief executive of Etsy, when they will have already been preparing for the announcement of the IPO.
The editors at LinkedIn asked me and a group of fellow leaders, “What is the one big idea that will shape the next year?” Our answer is based in the simple fact that people want and expect a greater level of personal connection and demonstrated sense of social responsibility from the companies they support. In an era when people are more selective about the businesses they patronize, Etsy is proud to be a part of what I see as the defining trend of 2015 and beyond: an expectation that companies must articulate the social purpose of their businesses to retain customers.
Plus let's not forget that the company was founded by Rob Kalin, a carpenter making handmade wooden computers with nowhere to sell them - who was fired as CEO by his own company - twice following disagreements about the direction of the company. 

This was an interview with him back in 2011 - Can Rob Kalin Scale Etsy?

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