RBSA Portrait Exhibition


Claire Sparkes ASGFA, “Claire”, oil on canvas.

The RBSA Portrait Prize Exhibition 2015, Birmingham, runs from the 16th July – 22 August.

This year, working in conjunction with Changing Faces’ charity, the prize takes on a new direction. The exhibition shows how portraiture enables everyone to explore their response to disfigurement with confidence, by revealing the richness and diversity of faces. There  will be a specially-selected artwork on show from the Changing Faces collection,
Andrew James’ portrait of Bill Cooper. This year, the selection panel included Simon
Davis RBSA and RP, Nicola Kalinsky, Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and
Alastair Adams RP.
The exhibition attracts many talented portraitists from across the UK.
James Partridge, Chief Executive of Changing Faces said ‘We are delighted to be
collaborating with the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists by supporting its biennial
‘Portrait Prize’ exhibition and presenting the Changing Faces Midlands Prize. We
believe the exhibition will do much to raise public awareness of the issues around
facial disfigurement and why our campaign for ‘face equality’ (like race equality) is so
important. We look forward to congratulating the Prize winner.’
The RBSA holds a number of prize exhibitions each year in order to provide artists with
a platform to show their work and be rewarded for their talents.
Many of the SGFA members produce drawn and painted portraits. Showing at this year’s Portrait Prize is Claire Sparkes ASGFA.


Claire Sparkes ASGFA “Bowie”, Oil on canvas

For more information please contact Sophie Rycroft, Gallery and Marketing Assistant,
0121 236 4353.
RBSA Gallery
4 Brook Street
St Paul’s
Birmingham B3 1SA
T 0121 236 4353
E rbsagallery@rbsa.org.uk
W http://www.rbsa.org.uk

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Image of the Month: Lesley Bower ASGFA

"Landscape with Trees", Collage, 22x17", Lesley Bower ASGFA.

“Landscape with Trees”, Collage, 22×17″, Lesley Bower ASGFA.

I was recently commissioned to create a site-specific work for my friend’s house in Puglia. The work could feature the olive tree growing in the wide courtyard facing the owners’ olive grove below. My friend suffers from macular degeneration and described to me how she could see sharply defined images and shapes while softer, less defined shapes appear as undecipherable fragments (an extreme example of the former would be Magritte, of the latter, Renoir or Seurat).  Whether a picture is in colour, black and white, abstract or naturalistic, large or small was immaterial.

The required dimensions were 22” x 17” (56 x 43 cm) to fit a space you see when you enter the house. These are not the dimensions I normally work in. The image needed to be clean, simple and immediate. A collage of cut, not torn, pieces would make an interesting, easily visible image that would be recognisable as a landscape but with abstract textural elements. I often paint up pieces of paper using different paint effects with acrylics. I used a few I found in a shoebox full of coloured foil sweet wrappers and found objects (I collect these because they’re eye-catching and sometimes useful). With absolutely no preconceived idea about how they should look in the composition except that they should go on the bottom, I cut them into rough shapes which turned out to form a jigsaw hill. The tree shapes were also just random, earlier pieces of water-colour playfulness on large rectangles of paper.

"Landscape with Trees", Collage, 22x17", Lesley Bower ASGFA.

“Landscape with Trees”, painting after the collage, 22×17″. Lesley Bower ASGFA.

LesleyBowerProfile of the Artist: Lesley Bower ASGFA is a mixed media artist based in West London. She has drawn all her life and as a child produced endless images of colourful clothes. She began taking evening art classes in Richmond in the 1990s which triggered a career change. Lesley went to Camberwell to study Paper Conservation as it had a more practical approach, including the history of drawing and printmaking, than the Fine Art degrees on offer. Following her time at Camberwell Lesley studied under David Wiseman (London Group). Now living near the Thames Lesley exhibits with West London Artists and takes inspiration from Kew and Richmond Park. Her work is interested in intricacy and structure.

Lesley Bower was elected an Associate of the Society of Graphic Fine Art in May 2015.

For more information see: http://www.saatchiart.com/lesleybower


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Georgia Webber Draws Silence

Drawing is often used as a way to distract oneself from physical or mental anguish. It’s used in the rehabilitation units of various hospitals and community centres and our Draw 14 opener Andrew Marr, published his “A Short Book About Drawing” which explained how drawing helped him recover following a stroke. Georgia Webber’s  drawings in her series Dumb  explore her struggle with unexplained voice loss.

Image from "Dumb Comics" by  Georgia Webber

Image from “Dumb Comics” by Georgia Webber

Webber’s comics belong to the increasingly popular genre of personal medical journey works. Doctors dealing with paediatric epilepsy have been using David B’s “Epileptic” (L’Ascension du haut mal)  in order to explain seizures to families for years. In this vein Matila Tristram’s “Probably Nothing”  confused bookshops everywhere by blurring the boundaries between graphic novel, pregnancy guide and cancer advice. Tristram’s comic was written in short notes during her pregnancy and cancer treatment, when the ending was unknown (thankfully it was a happy one with a healthy baby boy and an all clear). With the immediacy of social media and our culture of sharing every moment, drawing offers a chance to reflect on the situations we find ourselves in.

"Splitting", from "Dumb2" by Georgia Webber.

“Splitting”, from “Dumb2″ by Georgia Webber.

















In Dumb Comics we’re taken along on the journey, where, like when Tristram wrote her strip, the ending is unknown.

Georgia began drawing as a child, working for hours on end and complaining the her parents that she didn’t have enough time to draw. This work ethic has stayed with her and she manages to squeeze a large amount into her days. I asked her a few questions about her practice:

Have you found the combination of drawing and writing about your experiences more helpful than simply writing?

 Writing is great, but it’s limited. Drawing is great, but it’s limited. The combination of writing and drawing has under-appreciated power that I’m just beginning to explore, and it’s been thoroughly healing in my experience of injury and recovery, of understanding myself and how to communicate my insides with others.

Images are deeply evocative, so I love how immediate it is. But it’s also something that I find gives away the creator in so many ways they don’t expect — for example, how I draw myself tells you an awful lot about how I feel about myself, about storytelling, about what’s significant and what can be left out. I don’t mean for it to tell you these things, but I have no choice; I’m creatively working with what ability I’ve got.

What advice would you give to other people who are thinking about drawing their stories?

I’d say you have to do it to discover how YOU do it. There are many great ways to convey a story, and trying to be like the people you admire is a great start, but ask others to help you shape your work, as them what they see in it and what needs improvement. It’s the best way to find the ways you’re revealing yourself in it, and which parts are unnecessary detours from your voice and your idea.


The rest of Dumb Comics are set to arrive in the UK in July 2015. For more information about Georgia’s work http://georgiasdumbproject.com/

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Image of the Month – Clare Williams ASGFA

"Carpet of Leaves", watercolour on paper, Clare Williams ASGFA.

“Carpet of Leaves”, watercolour on paper, Clare Williams BA, ASGFA, AssocSBA, SFP.

Carpet of Leaves was inspired on a beautiful Autumn day. I was walking my dog in Kelsey Park, Beckenham when I was struck by the beauty of the carpet. The leaves were every shape and colour and they covered the entire floor  of the park. I did some quick sketches and took photographs before I did my watercolour painting as I knew the leaves would soon change colour.

I work mainly in watercolour and graphite, but I also enjoy many aspects of printmaking and photography. I have just moved to the beautiful Wye Valley , brought my children back to my homeland. I get excited here everyday doing the school run as we spot the birds of prey and amazing wildlife and views at every turn! There is obviously a lot of inspiration for my love of botanicals and nature.

Profile of the Artist: Clare Williams, BA, ASGFA, AssocSBA, SFP.

Clare’s botanical interest is life long. Growing up in North Wales Clare’s childhood was filled with mountains, flora and fauna. Her grandmother inspired her deep love of flowers. Clare left Wales at 18 and studied under Peter Prendergast before completing her BA in Visual Arts at Cheltenham College.

Living in Kent for many years Clare explored the flowers and vegetables of Hampton Court Castle, Kew and Wisley. In her Botanical art she has travelled and studied plants in places as varied as Trinidad, the Cayman Islands and Tuscany. The artists Maria Sibylla Merian, Marianne North, Rory McEwen and Rosie Sanders have been great inspirations to her.

In 2015 Clare was made an Associate of the Society of Botanical Art (SBA) and exhibited in Westminster Central Hall with them. Clare was made an Associate of the Society of Graphic Fine Art in 2013.

“Carpet of Leaves ” will be showing at “Drawn Together”, at Bankside Gallery later this month.

For more information about Clare Williams please see www.claresbotanicals.co.uk

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Jerwood Drawing Prize 2015

jerwoodlogoThe Jerwood Drawing Prize is the largest and longest running annual open exhibition of UK drawings. Last year the Jerwood Drawing Prize celebrated twenty years of the prize exhibitions. This year is another milestone, it’s not fifteen years since the Jerwood Charitable Foundation began supporting the prize.  The Prize reinterprets drawing, questions the boundaries and acts as a platform to widening the understanding of drawing.

As a society that is dedicated to drawing it’s exciting to see that drawings are still popular.

Jerwood Drawing Prize is a joint initiative, led by Professor Anita Taylor, Dean of Bath School of Art and Design at Bath Spa University and supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation through its contemporary gallery programme Jerwood Visual Arts in London and on tour nationally.

Jessie Brennan, Apostelstraat 20, graphite on paper. Photography Benjamin Cosmo Westoby.

Jessie Brennan, Apostelstraat 20, graphite on paper. Photography Benjamin Cosmo Westoby.

The 2015 selectors are Dexter Dalwood, artist; Salima Hashmi, artist, curator and writer; and John-Paul Stonard, art historian. They will create an exhibition that explores and celebrates the diversity, excellence and range of current drawing practice in the UK.
The Jerwood Drawing Prize is open to all UK based artists, from student to established, working with drawing.
Deadline for online registration: 26 June 2015, 5pm.
For further details and to register online please visit: jerwoodvisualarts.org 
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Image of the Month – Glimpses of Summer by Sally Wilson ASGFA

glimpses of summer 20x12 in 2013 This piece was produced for the 2013 National Stitch/Madeira competition. The criteria is to create a piece which epitomises the given title by machine embroidery or hand stitching.
I use a very basic Bernina sewing machine in straight stitch mode to ‘draw’ with the threads. The piece took approximately three months to complete and over 10,000 metres of thread; the surface is entirely covered by tiny stitches of varying hues. The work is comparatively small being 20 x 12 inches, produced in sections to prevent the canvas base from warping.
This competition provides the opportunity to challenge my own versatility (or not!). Each year I try to create a piece which challenges my own practices; be it technique, subject matter or/and style. This work is very different to my usual style of working. I gain enormous inspiration from architecture, natural forms and wildlife; less so people and therefore this piece is a compromise between the two. The use of stylisation/caricature was definitely a challenge and I personally feel I could have created a more fluent character.
The piece was the overall winner of the National Stitch/Madeira competition and also the ‘mainly machine embroidery’ category winner and has just returned from the subsequent UK tour.

SallyWilsonProfile of the Artist: Sally Wilson ASGFA is a fine artist who lives in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. She has a diverse practice using materials such as welded metal, machine embroidery, drawing and pen work, acrylics and recycled fabrics. Sally often combines media in both two and three dimensional works.
Sally achieved a first class honours degree in Fine Art (sculpture) at Loughborough College of Art & Design in 1989. She taught Fine Art and for thirteen years was Team leader of Art at Huddersfield New College. In 2005 she had a traumatic head injury, although this ended her teaching career it enabled her to concentrate solely on producing art.

Sally’s “Sheffield Remembers” drawing was awarded the Highly Commended Work in Colour prize at Draw 14, the SGFA Annual Exhibition.

Further information can be found by visiting Sally Wilson’s website http:// www.sallywilson.co.uk or by following her on sallywilsonart@facebook.com

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Ravilious at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

Ravilious at the Dulwich Picture Gallery: 1 April – 31 August 2015

by Christine Hopkins SGFA


The Westbury Horse (1939) watercolour and pencil on paper, private collection, courtesy of Towner, Eastbourne.

The Westbury Horse (1939) watercolour and pencil on paper, private collection, courtesy of Towner, Eastbourne.


It has been hard to avoid the recent mentions of the Eric Ravilious exhibition that opened on 1st April at the Dulwich Picture Gallery; every arts/media/culture page of the press has been encouraging us to visit. The gallery’s promotional material explains the bare bones of the show:

‘The first major exhibition to survey watercolours by celebrated British artist Eric Ravilious (1903-42). Well known for his iconic designs for Wedgwood, Ravilious is widely considered one of the key figures in mid-20th century British design but he was also one of the finest watercolourists of the century.

His astonishingly prolific career spanned peace and war. With the outbreak of World War II Ravilious was assigned to the Royal Navy as one of the first Official War Artists producing a uniquely haunting record of Britain and War.

Over 80 watercolours will be on display – including famous works like Train Landscape and Westbury Horse as well as rarely seen works from private collections providing an inspiring look at his work between the mid-1920s and his tragic death in 1942.

Although he died at the age of only 39, Ravilious was largely responsible for the revival of English watercolour painting. He started out under the tutelage of Paul Nash at the Royal College of Art and although hugely versatile it was painting that Ravilious saw as his true vocation; it was this work that he exhibited, and he cared deeply about its reception by fellow artists like Moore and John Piper.

The exhibition is curated by James Russell, a leading specialist on Eric Ravilious whose books on the artist include the popular series Ravilious in Pictures

Ravilious catalogue front

Catalogue front cover, showing The Westbury Horse (1939) watercolour and pencil on paper, private collection, courtesy of Towner, Eastbourne.

The approach to the exhibition is via the permanent collections of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, past vast and highly coloured oil canvasses, so one of the first things to strike you is the muted colour palette favoured by Ravilious. In contrast to the preceding oils, the scale and subject matter are familiar, comfortable and perhaps even a little homely. Beginning with some examples of his earlier wood engravings (and the rare treat of seeing the actual tools used), it becomes apparent that his style of working was to stay with him throughout his short career. Described by Douglas Bliss (his friend and author of the 1928 book History of Wood Engraving) as ‘dot and speck and dash and dab’, his use of pattern and line is visible throughout the works shown here.
Divided into six sections, the exhibition brings together works held in public and private collections, and re-unites many works first shown together in 1939. With the benefit of hindsight it is tempting to see a shadow of the events that were to shake the world and eventually bring about his death, but there is a sense of contentment, a golden summer, and a feeling of place that marks much of the work. Perhaps because of his familiarity with the landscape of the South Downs the colours are pale and chalky and his repeated patterns are reminiscent of ploughed fields or distant seas. It isn’t necessary to peer closely at the works to see his love of cross-hatching and stippling, a very dry brush was often in evidence. Often, there is a curious sense of exaggerated perspective, and in his interior paintings the patterned textiles and wallpaper serve to show this. The rugs disappear off at strange angles, and patchwork bedspreads show the contours of the bed beneath. There is an almost total absence of the human form in his work, and yet the frequent placing of a chair hints that someone was there just a moment ago, and will return shortly. Many of the works have the appearance of stage sets – a backdrop for some action that is yet to happen. Many of the works are presented in a framed but unmounted state, showing the rusty marks left by the drawing pins he used to stretch his paper, bringing us somehow closer to the artist as though we were there watching him prepare to paint.

Catalogue rear cover, showing Train Landscape, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collection

Catalogue rear cover, showing Train Landscape, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Collection

Upon the outbreak of WW2, Ravilious volunteered for the Observer Corps, scanning the skies waiting for enemy aircraft. Later he energetically seized the opportunity of a contract working for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee. He was sent to serve with the Royal Navy, initially at naval bases within the UK, but latterly posted to an RAF station in Iceland. During the war years he painted some of his most recognisable work including the chalk figure of the South Downs used to illustrate the front cover of the exhibition catalogue. He still painted his characteristic landscapes, but with the inclusion of the signs of warfare. Beaches were now festooned with barbed wire, fields became landing strips for light aircraft, and distant convoys and gun emplacements appeared in the coastal images. Domestic interiors were replaced with scenes of operations and map rooms. A series of lithographs recorded his time spent observing submarine operations. It was during a search-and-rescue patrol off the coast of Iceland that his plane disappeared.

It is interesting to speculate on a possible connection between Ravilious and the SGFA – he is of the generation that would have been part of the Society’s early history, and some of his contemporaries and inspirations were certainly known to have exhibited with the SGA, as it was then known. It is entirely possible that without his untimely death he would have been one of our 20th century leading members. However there is a great deal of our early documentation which is missing or was destroyed, so it is impossible at this stage to claim him as one of our own.

The exhibition is accompanied by a beautiful catalogue by James Russell, published by Philip Wilson Publishers,

©2015 Dulwich Picture Gallery


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