Each year the SGFA hold their Annual Open Exhibition at the Menier Gallery, London. There are numerous prizes to be won and submissions are open to all.
Artists whose work is accepted via Open Submission are eligible to apply for Associate Membership with the Society of Graphic Fine Art.
I first found out about The Society of Graphic Fine Art when I picked up a “Call For Entries” flyer at The Mall Galleries. It was for DRAW13.
I hadn’t been making Fine Art for long but was a Graphic Designer. Having work accepted for an exhibition at The Mall Galleries on my first attempt, had given me confidence, so I thought I would go for it!
I submitted one print, an etching called The Bathers. The Bathers was the second print I’d ever made, so I really wasn’t sure it was good enough.
I was very excited when it was accepted. I remember the “handing in” morning at The Menier Gallery and seeing all the work being handed in and thinking, “crumbs, the work is of an amazingly high standard. Hope they haven’t made a mistake”.
When I passed my print over to the smiley lady at the desk, she exclaimed “I loved this!” Her friendliness made me feel very encouraged and welcome. She turned out to be the gorgeous Harriet Brigdale SGFA, mother figure, encourager, Bulletin Editor and glue of SGFA. Now my lovely friend.
The Bulletin keeps SGFA members up to date with the latest exhibitions, news and gossip.
The night before the Opening of DRAW13, I was at home when the phone rang. It was the then President of the SGFA, Dr.Jo Hall PPSGFA, AOI. She told me that I’d won “The Award for a Highly Commended Print” for The Bathers and hoped I would be attending the Private View.
I was stunned, it was such a confidence booster. I remember feeling really nervous waiting for the London train on the evening of the opening.
Later that evening I was overheard by Harriet at The Menier Gallery saying “I’m not sure what a mezzotint is.” She immediately introduced me to the brilliant mezzotint expert, Clive Riggs SGFA. He had a gorgeous prize winning print of a hare in the exhibition. He explained the mezzotint process to me so enthusiastically, that I was inspired to buy a “ready rocked plate” the following week and have a go.
The atmosphere of the Exhibition Opening was very welcoming and friendly. It was lovely to be amongst fellow drawers who loved drawing as much as me. I was also very excited to sell two of my Bathers prints that evening!
I’d volunteered to do a couple of sessions of stewarding and found I was paired up with someone called “Fitzy” (Glenn Fitzy Fitzpatrick ASGFA). He was so sweet and friendly. He made me coffee and told me all about his time in the army and his passion for drawing. His drawings were fabulously loose and expressive.
The Private View at Bankside Gallery of “Drawn Together” a members only exhibition, 2015
A couple of SGFA members said you should try for membership. A tall kindly chap who’d created the most amazing Prize Winning drawing of a ships’ figurehead (a self portrait), who I now know to be our illustrious Honorary Treasurer, Barry Harrison SGFA- winked and said “We LOVE sketchbooks!”
The following spring I received an email from the SGFA encouraging me to consider applying for membership. I remembered what Barry had said about sketchbooks. I knew I had a shelf in my studio groaning under the weight of sketch books.
I entered some work for DRAW14 and applied for membership.
I remember feeling a rush of nerves as I handed in my portfolio to the Associate’s Representative at The Menier Gallery. It was Charlie Kirkham SGFA and she was so smiley and warm, I immediately felt better. She asked me if I’d done the drawing of a soldier in a trench, Despair. When I said yes, she said “I love that!”
I had to return at about 4pm for the verdict from the committee. My supportive husband had taken the day off and we went to Tate Modern for a few hours. I found it hard to concentrate and look at the work, I was becoming more and more nervous.
At 4pm I returned to The Menier a nervous wreck. Christine Hopkins, SGFA, our fabulous secretary at the time, was seated at the desk. She was very welcoming and told me the President Jackie Devereux PSGFA would be with me shortly. I began looking at the exhibition which calmed my nerves, while I waited for Jackie.
Jackie appeared and said, “Well, we enjoyed looking at your work – ” I was waiting to hear, but we don’t think you’re ready yet , like they say on X Factor – but she said – “and we’d like to welcome you onboard!!!!!” I was so thrilled I went to give her massive a hug! To my horror I saw that she had her arm in a sling and I thought “oh no – I’ve just hurt the President”. Another “Bridget Jones” moment.
Anyway Jackie assured me I hadn’t damaged her arm and told me to go downstairs to collect my portfolio. When I did, I saw my drawing Despair on the far wall, it looked like it had a note below it. Intrigued, I went to take a look, had it won a prize?
I left the Gallery in a daze to meet my husband. When I saw him I burst into tears and said “I’ve been made a member and I think I’ve won a prize!” I was in such a daze, I wasn’t sure if I’d imagined it.
Later, at the Private View, I went to check and I had won something. Andrew Marr presented me with the “The Award for Themed Work” for Despair. It had been selected by The Very Rev’d Andrew Nunn (Southwark Cathedral), who’d said “It had touched his heart”.
Later, Andrew Marr told me that “the drawing was very beautiful”. I was so thrilled and excited, I’ll never forget that evening.
Drawing Days are a great chance to meet like minded artists
Over the following year I went to the SGFA Drawing Days and began to meet the other members and make friends. I loved the companionship of drawing with a group and sharing each others sketch books. I was introduced to museums I hadn’t visited before, like the Horniman.
I am friends with SGFA members on Facebook and enjoy seeing their work and sharing mine. When I’m stuck with something or need technical help, I have a family of friends and colleagues that understand, with masses of experience to draw upon.
Finally, last October I had two works selected for DRAW15. A painting about my grandparents and an etching called Rapture. It won “The Arcadia Award for a Highly Commended Print”. It was selected by Martin Shortis, from The Royal Drawing School and presented by John Huddy, owner of The Illustration Cupboard, St.James, London.
Submitting work to the SGFA Open Exhibitions, followed by being elected as a member, has been incredibly positive for my development as an artist. It’s so much better to take part in exhibitions before deciding if you would like to be considered for membership. There is the opportunity to meet members and to discover if they are your type and if you are a comfortable fit.
The members are amongst the most friendly, professional and encouraging of all the major art societies. I urge any artist who believes in drawing excellence to submit their work to DRAW16.