Thursday, 31 March 2011

Trying my luck

Yesterday I dropped off two paintings at the Royal Academy of Arts at Piccadilly in central London, hoping I’ll be allowed to participate in the RA Summer Exhibition. This is an exhibition open to anyone and has been held every year since 1769, without exception. Around 10,000 works (including paintings, sculpture, photography, film) representing some 5,000 artists are entered each year, of which around 1000 pieces are selected.

Now, 242 years after the first Summer Exhibition, I decided to be bold and submit my paintings. Considering that great artists such as JMW Turner and Thomas Gainsborough participated in this very exhibition in the past, it would be an honour just to be accepted. So off I went, having wrapped two paintings in a combined 10 meters of bubble wrap.

Fortunately I managed to fit the fairly large paintings (the largest is just short of a meter) into my car and, to avoid the congestion charge of central London I parked near a tube station and dragged the paintings into the Piccadilly line. The rain, when poking my head above ground at Green Park station, was not much of a problem as the bubble wrap protected my paintings nicely.

Living just outside London I noticed that I had missed the hustle and bustle of central London, black London taxis and people in suits running about Piccadilly and the curved stately architecture of Regent Street. The rain made everything look silvery black and sleek. Looking around I spotted other people carrying paintings, hurrying along to the east entrance of the Royal Academy. They seemed to be wearing blinkers, jogging nervously, almost pushing their way through to get their precious paintings to the drop off point in time (which was funny since the deadline for submission was still one and a half days away).

On my way through Burlington Arcade I ended up chatting to a man who had travelled from outside London to submit his abstract painting. He was wearing the most fantastic green/pink knitted hat. While queuing at the east entrance, I told me that he had submitted a painting two years ago which had been rejected. I wonder how many of us in the queue would be disappointed this year; it probably best to expect to be rejected. Interestingly, at that point flyers were being handed out inviting us to submit our works to an on-line gallery if the RA says NO! ... Keeping our spirits up, we made jokes about the great JMW Turner possibly queuing up right here for the 1790 Summer Exhibition, while shuffling along below statues of the royal academicians Linnaeus and Galileo.
Not much later we entered the submission hall, which resembled an ants' nest and was packed with wanna-be artists like us, unwrapping their paintings. RA staff then scanned each piece and the art handlers took the works away. And, just like that, we found ourselves outside again.

The RA will complete their selection at the end of May. Fingers crossed...!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Life Drawing Activities

23 March 2011
I go to a life drawing group on Saturdays. Typically there are about 10 of us with some people attending every week; some are professional artists and others, like me, hope to fit in the category emerging artist. We sit together in a bright tall room in a big Victorian house in the leafy St Margarets suburb of London, and a different female model turns up every week. We draw and paint, while listening to the BBC Radio 3 classic music station. From time to time you can hear music filtering through from a room down the hall where young girls attend ballet lessons. The light dappling in through the big windows is magnificent, especially on a sunny day.
When we're done shuffling about the room, making cups of tea and looking for milk in the community fridge, Alan calls out and we gather in the drawing room. The model, beautifully lit by the sunlight, typically starts with two 5-minute poses. This is a great warm-up exercise and pushes us straight into putting the gesture of the model onto paper quickly.

The model rarely poses for longer than 10 minutes, which is great if the pose doesn't work for you (for example due to the angle from where you are working), but a race against time to record what you want if it is a perfect pose.

The group has a preference for classic poses and the models are experienced enough to know what we're looking for. Last Saturday, our model was an actress and was obviously aware of aesthetic ways to stand and twist her body. As each model visits us every few weeks, we get used to their bodies (shapes, curves) and after a few sessions it becomes easier to draw them.
Time to choose which drawings can be put onto canvas! The drawings and work in progress can be seen on the Dutchoils website.