Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Travels of Atlantis Art Materials - on the move again!

The largest art shop in London has moved again! 

I regard Atlantis Art Materials as one of my local art materials shops. It's had lots of locations around the East End of London since I first encountered it just off Devons Road in E3 more years ago than I can accurately remember.

I've bought masses of art materials and supplies "stuff" from Atlantis in my time. They were my supplier of choice for paper, foam core, mat board when I could access them easily by car - because you could buy masses and just load it straight on to the back seat.  Plus I've been known to acquire an awful lots of bits and bobs having to walk past shelves to get to the foam core!  I can visualise all the pastels and pencils racks still because I used to spend so long in front of them....

I was idling trying to work out how many locations it has had since I've known them - and in the end came up with six - but I have only visited four of them.

There again they've only been in the latest one in Hackney since 5th March 2018.

1. Original Location: Devons Road, London E3 (mid/late 1980s?)

I'm sure this is the first place that I first I came across Atlantis Art Materials. I don';t think they'd been going for very long when I first came across them.

It was a typical location for a company looking for a large building and not wanting to pay lots of rent! They inhabited a very modern techie type building next to where the Devons Road DLR Station (opened 1987) is now. This was by far the smallest of the stores. They got a lot bigger when they moved on from here.  I don't think the DLR was open when I first visited it - but I could be wrong.

The original Devons Road location. 
I seem to recall the building they were in looked different so it might have changed or it might just be so many years ago I can't actually remember.

I do remember going there to review watercolour paint after reading Michael Wilcox's book The Wilcox Guide to the Best Watercolor Paints (published 1993) because this was the first time I'd taken a good long hard look at Old Holland Paint - which I never ever saw in any other art suppliers. (Note: this book is now way out of date - but did trigger a bit of a revolution if testing watercolours!)

2. The Huge Warehouse in Brick Lane (Early - Late 90s?)

I can't remember the precise address but it was right opposite the Old Truman Brewery - in an HUGE warehouse with great parking. It was absolutely cavernous and one of the stores I liked the best.

They were here for ages and I made lots of early purchases here.

Many is the time I've climbed that little flight of stairs
and entered the cathedral of art materials

a very small entrance
- which led to an enormous space behind

3. Whitechapel - early 2000s - 2009

7-9 Plumber's Row London E1 1EQ (just behind the Mosque on Whitechapel Road - as was)

This was one of the best locations and was also very accessible whether visiting using public transport or by car. I could normally guarantee I could park the car either in their car park or on the street - which meant I could take my time and spend lots of money I hadn't planned to.

Plus I really liked the layout and the paper desk - which was away from everything else.

I have some very pleasant memories of having a wind down from work wander around on Saturday afternoons.

They had to move on when plans for the area were developed and the site is now home to student accommodation.

4. Hanbury Street - August 2009- 2015

Disabled unfriendly entrance
- especially when carrying stuff!
Britannia House, 68-80 Hanbury Street, London E1 5JL

This was a large bright space once you got inside and lots of space to display the products well. However the access was a total nightmare (particularly for those with mobility challenges) in terms of both stairs at the entrance, the store on the second floor and a lift that took forever - plus never enough parking spaces outside - plus controlled parking zone. Luckily I could park locally being a resident of Tower Hamlets - however I still had to time visits for when it was more likely there would be spaces!

My shopping at Atlantis dropped off after they moved here - largely because of the accessibility reasons. It more or less became an emergency visits only - and I took to ordering online for larger stock supplies.

I'm guessing this is what finally stimulated the eternal "mail order" firm into finally getting its act together and generating an internet ordering service

The building is now a  refurbished very modern and"funky" apartment block.

5. Old Street 2015 - 25 February 2018

Basement, 16-28 Tabernacle Street, EC2A 4DD

The 2015 Invite to New Premises
I've never visited this venue as I'd stopped being a regular customer after the parking problems associated with Hanbury Street. It never struck me as being particularly easy to visit - being in the middle of a gigantic one way system.

NEW / Current Location - Hackney E8 - from 5th March 2018

Unit 1/Unit 7 Bayford Street Industrial Centre, London E8 3SE

This is their announcement.  They've got two units in a business centre - Unit 1 for main art supplies and Unit 7 just for paper.
  • The plus points: 
    • London Fields overground is within 200m
    • It's near the main bus routes via Mare Street
    • will be great for Hackney based artists
  • The negatives: 
    • double yellow lines everywhere - if you're not a Hackney resident don't even think about taking a car! 
    • no information on the website about parking - it's as if nobody ever has to move large or heavy items!
    • Atlantis have left Tower Hamlets - it's not local any more!

They're not a very internet savvy firm however you can follow them on:

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Rejection from the RA Summer Exhibition

This week lots of people got their notification about their entry to this year's Royal Academy of Art Summer Exhibition.

More than 95+% of them will have got a rejection email/letter.

You are in very good company if one of those was you.

Just to give you some perspective if you were rejected, this painting by Peter Brown NEAC ROI PS BSA was also rejected....
"Dear Peter Brown, Thank you for submitting your artwork: NED READING ON THE STUDIO FLOOR. The Members of the Summer Exhibition Committee...regret that they will not be able to include your artwork..."

Ned lying on the Studio Floor
Peter Brown
There have been HOWLS of disbelief on Facebook at this decision - 72 shares (and mine was one such) - and and very many comments - which I have idly wondered about analysing!

Last year I wrote a post called Does the RA Summer Exhibition still have the WOW factor?

#7 of the 10 reasons I gave for why the Summer Exhibition had lost its "WOW" was
7. too few good figurative paintings - by which I mean of the relatively realistic variety. There were any number of the more fantasy oriented or "I can't draw" variety. I see a lot more paintings I like better on a regular basis in the open exhibitions and art competitions exhibiting at the Mall Galleries.
I'm pleased to say that those of you who would like to see it in person will be able to do so at the Annual Exhibition of the New English Art Club which will be at the Mall Galleries between 15 Jun 2018 to 23 Jun 2018

It's worth remembering that NEAC was originally set up by those who were disgruntled by the decisions of those running the RA!
Historically, the New English was founded by a group of artists dissatisfied with the entrenched attitudes of the Royal Academy. They mounted their first show in 1886 including paintings by Clausen, Sickert and Stanhope Forbes. The club increasingly attracted younger artists, bringing with them the influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Many diverse styles of art have developed since its founding, adding richness and variety.

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Previous reviews of the Summer Exhibition

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review: Semi Finals of Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

The Semi Finals (Episode 9) of Portrait Artist of the Year was broadcast on Tuesday evening. I was able to catch up on the programme, make my notes and review social media comments this morning - and what follows is my review.

The Semi Finals of  Portrait Artist of the Year 2018

I'll see if I can make sense of what happened.

The Semi Finalists

The Semi Finalists
(Left to right: Leanne, Samira, Danny, Hetty, Brid, Lisa, Corinne and Jonathan)

The semi finals comprised four professional artists (links in the Heat Numbers are to my review of that Episode):
and four amateur artists
In terms of looking back at the series as a whole it's interesting to see whether the choices made in the Heats survived the challenges associated with the Semi Final.

What was different

First of all they changed the location. Using the Cafe de Paris was suggested to be a good way "taking them out of a safe environment" - although why an environment in which each artist probably had one of the more stressful experiences of their lives should be regarded by artists as "safe" is beyond me!

It was also suggested that the nature of the environment would be something the artists could capture in their portraits. There are some very obvious reasons - see below why this was something of a ridiculous hope!  Quite apart from the fact that most artists had stuck to head and shoulders portraits in their heats!

However the location did mean that they could control the light better - no "plein air" challenges from the overhead lighting to challenge them - because there was no natural light and they could make sure lighting was equally good for all artists (at least I assume they did this!)

Instead of one, the finalists had to paint TWO sitters within four hours.

Personally, given that this strategy favours some artists over others in terms of painting technique and speed of painting, IMO it was a bit much:
  • NOT to notify them in advance - so they had a chance to practice doing two portraits in four hours (ie effectively halving the time they had previously).
  • NOT to extend the amount of time available for painting - An extra hour or two could have made a very big difference to the outcome of this part of the competition - and the painters would still have had less time to paint a portrait than they had previously
Bottom line I think that while it is perfectly fair to make the challenge more difficult at this stage in order to the traditional "sort them out", this needs to be done in such a way as to
  • maintain a level playing field and 
  • avoid any context or tactics which favours one artist over another.
Could they have raised the stakes and been fair to all artists? Of course they could.   I'd suggest this is something for the company making the programme to reflect on for the future.

The models

Lily Cole and Simon Callow

The models were:


This is a slightly different review in the sense that we've already seen all the painters paint at least once. 

Performance Anxiety

This week I got the impression that the major challenge for most people - besides two sitters in a new context - was the FACT it was the semi-final. The atmosphere was more intense and was commented on as such by more the one painter while others just looked more worried.

I think a bit of performance anxiety crept in to some people's paintings. Certainly some painters paintings just fell away as the session progressed. They actually didn't look like they'd been painted by the same person who had painted in the Heats. 

Timing out the window

For those focusing on keeping their cool and just working steadily - in order to keep a lid on nerves - there was the contrary issue of needing to remember all the time that they were painting two people and had to create a unity and balance between the two individuals - but in the same amount of time they had to do one person in the Heat!

I thought Jonathan summed it up rather aptly "Why didn't I start panicking sooner?" - because at the end of the day there is always only a limited amount of time to get the painting done.

The painters arranged around the sitters

The Double Sitter Challenge

Now this is a subject I know something about. My Drawing the Head class at the (what was then) Prince's Drawing School always had two sitters - and if you made sure to sit in a particular place it was perfectly possible to draw two models within the time allowed - which was 2 hours actual drawing time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Work-Life-Artist #1: Catherine Ingleby

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of interviews with professional artists about the reality of their working lives.

The aim is to build up a series of reference points for those who contemplate a career as a professional artist - and need to know more about what life as a professional artist is really like.

I'm developing a page on my Art Business Info. for Artists About the Working Lives of Professional Artists and these interviews will also be listed on that page as a resource.

If you're interested in participating in the exercise see my note at the end about what to do.

Below my questions are in bold and Catherine's answers are not!

About the working life of Catherine Ingleby

Catherine Ingleby in her studio

A really useful exercise to do, I keep being asked similar questions so great to formulate ideas into some form of clarity! Hope this is ok.
You can:

What is reality for a working professional artist?

What does the "real life" of being an artist actually involve?

The reality is, and perhaps partly because I have children, that it is a structured job, I have a strict weekly routine and generally take weekends off.

Is it like what you expected?

I have found I spend much more time dealing with business aspect of my art than I perhaps would have predicted. I employ someone to do some of my invoicing, accounts, and liaising with galleries and clients, but at the end of the day probably spend as much time in the office as I do in the studio. I also pay an accountant and lawyer for financial support and advice - something I wish I’d started a lot earlier!

Where/who did you get your ideas of what "real life as an artist" was going to be like from? Were they right?

I envisaged a much more sociable, interactive (fun?!) lifestyle whereas the reality of life as an artist is that is largely quite solitary.

I think that art school created a false impression that working life would be much the same as school studio life, just better funded!

Kwande Quartet by Catherine Ingleby

Making a living

How do you actually "make a living" (e.g. keep a roof over your head / pay the bills / have a studio / plan for retirement)?

I paint full time, and the income divides roughly into thirds between original sales, commissioned work and reproductions sales.

What percentage of your income (roughly) do you generate from making art? 


What percentage of your income (roughly) derives from being involved with art? 

10% from teaching/lecturing

(Catherine lectures at schools and colleges on developing a theme for a series and a career in the arts; and to adults on the business of selling art.)

How do you aim to be making a living in future?

I enjoy the lectures as they provide a break from the solitary studio, and also give me the opportunity to build my client list, but I do not want to do more than I am doing now.

At the moment I am restricted by school age children, however I can see in the future I may wish to expand in that area. I also plan to increase my sales of prints, and related merchandising.

Time allocation

What percentage of time do you have each week for actually making art? (Is this more or less than you expected?)

I work approximately 6-8 hours a day, and occasional weekends when under deadline. It is a lot less than I would like, but I found that having restricted hours makes me far more focused and productive than pre children. I probably spend two or three evenings working too.

How do you typically spend your time each day or week or month?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review: Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2018

I went to see the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2018 Exhibition at the Mall Galleries yesterday. I always like it because of its emphasis on draughtsmanship which can sometimes be in short supply in other exhibitions.

Lynn Painter-Stainer Prizes - Left to right:
Young Artist Prize | Second Prize | First prize

It's also an exhibition I've been visiting every year since its third year (in 2007) when Ben Sullivan won (Ben is last year's BP Portrait Award Winner).  This year he selected artwork as a Judge along with Artist and Educator - Robin Mason - Head of Fine Art at the City & Guilds London Art School; Art Gallery Owner - Johnny Messum - Founder and Director of Messums, Wiltshire and Daphne Todd OBE PPRP NEAC - Past President of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, BP Portrait Award winner in 2010 (and second prize winner in 1983) and latterly a television celebrity as a judge in the BBC's The Big Painting Challenge.

So 2018 starts the second decade of visits to this exhibition! If you can't visit the Mall Galleries to see it you can view all the selected artworks online - in a rather curious slideshow.

It got me reflecting on how the exhibition has changed.

View of the Lynn Painter-Stainer Exhibition 2018
The most obvious change is the move from the Painter-Stainers' Hall in the City of London to the Mall Galleries.  

I think I preferred the earlier exhibitions more - which is in no way a reflection on the Mall Galleries (the lighting is much better at the Mall even if they can't compete on the chadelier front!)

I decided in the end that I think it's because I maybe liked the art more in the earlier exhibitions - and you can see the artwork from 10 years ago in the 2008 exhibition in my post Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2008 and Exhibition (with others listed at the end of this post - all of which come with images of artwork in the exhibitions.

Some of the better representational paintings with an emphasis on draughtsmanship in the show
For example, this is supposed to be an exhibition which is supposed to represent
the best of contemporary representational painting and drawing
and yet two other major changes I noticed are that:
  • There is no drawing in the exhibition. At least no drawings in the conventional sense. There are one or two paintings where the painter has drawn...  
  • Not all the artwork is representational. For me representational painting is supposed to be painting which relates to and represents a real object. As opposed to painting which represents a fantasy of objects which exist only within the artist's imagination. Yet a number of the paintings were quite clearly fantastical and/or included representations of real objects but that these had been distorted in a fantastical way
A prime example of the fantasy present in the exhibition is the artwork which won the First Prize - which is both real and not real. I think it was the innovation in painting which won it the first prize - it certainly wasn't innovation in the subject matter (see below to see what I mean).