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Art competitions

Submission and rejection

There’s been a fair amount of discussion in the art world about the validity of various ‘open’ art competitions recently. Kathryn Tyrell who writes the excellent and very informative blog Making a Mark has published an article covering the main points.

Choose the right competition

I think information and transparency are the key factors. Inform yourself as to the nature of works that are accepted for competitions. I had a few frustrating years submitting to the Society of Wildlife Artists before really studying their exhibition and realising that my work simple doesn’t suit their overall theme, which is heavily based towards printmaking, birds and British mammals.
I do wish society exhibitions would publish their numbers more transparently, so artists have a clearer idea of entries, sales, and costs/spend.

My favourite competition by far is the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year. This year I have submitted the following two works. ‘Shadows kiss’ is a huge piece for me, and took me way out of comfort zone. Fingers crossed….

Sun glare

Shadows Kiss

Society of Equine Artists

This is another regular one for me, although there has been considerable chopping and changing with venues recently. It is now based at Palace house in Newmarket instead of London, and I’m a little doubtful as to whether it is going to be able to ensure enough sales to make exhibiting worthwhile, but we shall see. 
Stormrunner
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David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year predictions

I dropped my elephant off at the Mall Galleries today, in the company of some very impressive looking pieces arriving at the same time.
I’ve had a scan through the pre sales catalogue and attempted to pick my winners for each category.To be honest, the longer I looked the harder I found it to make up my mind, I don’t envy those poor judges. I’m just very honoured to be featured in such strong company!

So heres the seven categories with my best guess at the winners.

Animal Behaviour: Showing a real understanding of animal behaviour, a sense of character, maybe something the judges may not have seen before.

Combat D’Oryx by Pascal Chesnau

A previous winner of the DSWAY title, I love the movement in this one.

Urban Wildlife: Entries can be in an urban style or depict the city life of animals and plants. Judges will be looking for both originality in the habitat as well as the contrast between wild and urban life.

Unnatural by Candice Bees

 or

Gemma Hayward

 Hidden World: A celebration of remote and rarely observed or lesser known landscapes and species. 

Lucy Paine



Not many seem to qualify for this category, but I particularly like this fox by Lucy Paine

Wings, Feathered or Otherwise: The extraordinary variety of winged wildlife – birds and insects, in flight or at rest. 

I love the bees by Patricia but I think these parrots by Stefano will be spectacular.

Turquoise and gold by Stefano Zagaglia

Into the Blue: Illustrate the wonderful world of water, be it ocean, seashore, wetland, river or stream.




Has to be one of nick O’Neils works (he has FIVE accepted this year, highest no. of entries I think!)

Whip it by Nick O’Neil

Vanishing Fast: Our vanishing world – it can be any species officially listed as endangered or threatened on the IUCN Red List – or any landscape that is at risk. 


Wide category this, but I love this tiger, although it equally falls into the next category.

Tiger 13 by Stephen Rew





Earth’s Beautiful Creatures: The choice is yours! As in all categories the judges are looking for not only beautifully executed original artworks but also imaginative interpretation, moving away from the purely photographic to compositions with great characterization, showing imagination, originality and genuine creativity. 


So anything then…

I’m going to choose the snow leopards, such a a great composition of a tricky subject.

The ghost in the mountains by Cynthia House


Overall Winner?

I’m going to go for either Nick O’Neils polar bear “Before it melts”

or Radha Kirby’s “Hippos in the late afternoon sun”….

Judging is on Monday so I’ll update on Tuesday morning.

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Getting it right

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “how long does it take?” So, I thought I’d quickly run through the process of the creation of a recent piece – “Razzle dazzle”
Painting zebras is always a bit of a headache inducer – all those stripes, and five together was ambitious. I started with a small sketch 25x25cm, which went well, and was pretty straightforward.

Zebras, £350

So, an expensive sheet of 70x50cm paper is clipped up onto the easel and I start on a big version.

Started well..
But soon joined the growing pile of rejects on the floor…
There were several versions of charcoal on white paper, each more disastrous than the previous. I just couldn’t get the light as I envisaged it. Finally, I scrapped about £30 worth of paper into the bin and tried on a dark grey paper. This version I was pleased with, the zebras really standing out from the background. It’s hard to keep the looseness of the original sketch, but working from drawings rather than photos really helps.
Herd of Zebras 70x50cm £850

Then I moved onto the oil, the background took ages to get right, I started with an ochre/blue/pale cream combination, but then changed the background to red which I felt conveyed Africa a bit more, that red dust. Also the ochre was too similar to the foreground colour. The blue doesn’t really show up in the photos, as it is so close in tone to the top layer, but it’s very clear in the flesh so to speak.

Razzle dazzle
It’s not a huge painting, 24x18inches, but I felt any bigger and I’d lose the freshness, although getting enough detail proved a little tricky. 
Framed and ready for sale £1500
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Grrrr…

Grrrr

This is meant to be my quiet time of year, when I can footle about faffing about working online in my warm study, instead of freezing in my draughty studio, spluttering in the temperamental warmth of the log burner.

However, fresh back from Africa I had a raft of new images to work from, and the deadline for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year coming up.

Now you see me ….

I really wanted to produce some big works, that would have an impact in the Mall Galleries, and work well together as a group. Tom Way was kind enough to give me permission to use some of his lion photos to work from. Safari with children is magical but not really conducive to producing much in the way work! 

Young lion at waterhole

Serena sketching

The moon, swallows and springbok

Male lion, North Pride

Working to such a tight deadline is always stressful, although a friend did say, with raised eyebrow, “It’s not like you haven’t known about it for twelve months…” I know, I know, but I only got back from Africa at the end of December and it’s tricky to conjure up decent wildlife in Berkshire! 

The past few weeks have been spent converting the sketches and photos into paintings. I hope I have a strong body of work to submit, and that at least a couple get chosen! Here’s a peek at a two of them.  

Wildlife Artist of the Year 

Dawn Ascending, Oil on panel. 24×18″
Lion 75x55cm charcoal on paper

So, hopefully, the last works should be finished this week and then photographed in time for the deadline on the 13th feb! 

Art Dubai 2016

I’m also working on some equine paintings for Art Dubai 2016 which takes place in April. Signet Contemporary Art are taking them, so I’m looking forward to working with them. I did contemplate a trip accompanying them to the sun, but maybe next year!

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Cover girl!

Magazine cover

I was so honoured to have my image of Ivy Leaping selected as the front cover of ‘Paint’ the magazine for the Society of All Artists. It was published this month, and looks fantastic. Lovely article inside too. It’s a particularly poignant image for me as it was the first work I produced after having children and dealing with various health issues that I felt really began to reflect where I wanted to go with my art. I had previously been known for very traditional, realist works. I liked them, but there was little to distinguish them from the many realist artists out there. I wanted to create a body of art that felt more my own, rather than the culmination of a traditional atelier education.
I am rarely happy when I look at my older work, I always see scope for improvement, but in this one, I still love it as much as when I first finished it.

Society of Equestrian Artists

I drove up to Tuxford last weekend to attend the S.E.A. awards. I was fairly spot on with my predictions, although not always the right category! The main award is going to be presented next week, at the private view in London at the Osborne studio Gallery, so I will do a list of winners next week. I was a bit suprised to find the categories had changed, and I feel there needs to be more transparency within the society of the judging process.

Equine Art

I’ve been back in the studio, after what feels like a very long break. In fact I got face full of cobwebs when I walked in, so at least someone has been busy. I’m working some new equine pieces, and here is one in progress on the easel!

Society of Widlife Artists

‘Monkey Business’ got through the first round and has now been dispatched for second round judging – fingers crossed!