Jackson’s interview 2017 exhibitor Claire Sparkes

According to Jackson’s writer Lisa Takahashi, The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition ‘celebrates the very best in watercolour painting today: from abstract to figurative, contemporary to traditional; there is no house style of the exhibition and every year brings its own surprises.’

Ahead of this year’s deadline (5pm, Monday 25 June), Lisa interviewed 2017 exhibitor Claire Sparkes.  A snippet of their conversation is published below; head to the Jackson’s Blog to read the interview in full.

What is the most memorable exhibition of watercolour works that you have ever been to see? What was it that made it stick in your memory?

Graham Dean, ‘Prayer 2’

In the late 1980’s, on a school trip, I saw an exhibition of Graham Dean’s work in a venue just outside Canterbury in Kent. It made such an impact on me and consequently I still have the catalogue. The scale of the pieces struck me, and the way he illustrated with human condition through his depictions of people. I admired how he employed loose wet into wet techniques, but retained a level of control over the figurative imagery. The layering within the paintings allowed him to combine dreamlike suggestions of the past with the everyday. I rediscovered Dean’s work in the mid-90’s in an exhibition in Brighton. I decided to return to watercolour after seeing this exhibition, having painted with acrylics for some years. He inspired me to begin experimenting with a looser style.

Define watercolour or describe what it means to you in one word.

Flow. Most notably, the way the water carries the paint and flows in its own way carries so much meaning. Essentially, I think it’s magical that although I can guide the medium, I cannot entirely control it. Additionally, I like how colour can be layered and lifted from the surface. It gives me the chance to respond to the behaviour of the paint.

Claire Sparkes, ‘Hyakinthos’

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 is now calling for entries. Open to all UK-based artists, the competition offers a generous range of prizes including a First Prize of £6000, Second Prize of £3000 and Third Prize of £1000. Apply online by 5pm on Monday 25 June: sundaytimeswatercolour.artopps.co.uk

Top Tips from a former Selector and First Prize Winner

Kathryn Maple, 2017 selector and 2016 First Prize winner, shares her top tips for entering art competitions in the July issue of Artists & Illustrators.

‘No tip will guarantee you a place in a competition because there are many things beyond your control. After many failed attempts, I’ve learned you should never see being unsuccessful as a rejection of the quality of your work.’

Kathryn Maple, ‘Sandy Shoes’, First Prize 2016

NEVER BE SATISFIED

Keep trying to reinvent or push your ideas and mediums so the work feels fresh.

SELF-BELIEF IS ESSENTIAL

Working alone in the studio can feel isolating at times but your self-belief will allow you to recognise if a work has the potential to be shortlisted.

TALK IT OVER

I find it refreshing to have chats about my work with friends who aren’t artists because they can see something obvious that doesn’t work. Fresh eyes with no bias can be useful.

GET YOUR ART SEEN

Creating opportunities for work to be seen and working to deadlines keeps your work energised. This translates into your voice and forms the heart of your practice.

Kathryn Maple, ‘Hiding in the Woods’

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 is now calling for entries. Open to all UK-based artists, the competition offers a generous range of prizes including a First Prize of £6000, Second Prize of £3000 and Third Prize of £1000. Apply online by 5pm on Monday 25 June: sundaytimeswatercolour.artopps.co.uk

Spotlight on Ishbel Myerscough, 2018 Selector

Ishbel Myerscough studied at both Glasgow school of Art and Slade School of Fine Art, graduating from the latter in 1993. Just two years later, she won the National Portrait Gallery BP Portrait Award and has since completed two commissions for the Collection. A London-based artist who has moved her studio back into her childhood home, Ishbel teaches at the Royal Drawing School once a week. Of her teaching style, she comments ‘I can’t teach them how to be an artist; I can show them how to look but not how I do it.’

But what of Ishbel’s painting style? Sarah Howgate, curator of Friendship Portraits (National Portrait Gallery, 2015) comments that ‘Ishbel paints painstakingly slowly on a relatively small, sometimes miniature scale, and with a clear, unflinching vision.’ She ‘…is interested in pimples, not only pimples also wrinkles, puckers, tattoos, moles, freckles, bulges, veins, hair, skin colour, stretchmarks – all the things, in fact, that we edit out of our body images. Her work, very often, constitutes a sort of journey to the surface of the human being and everything she finds there she records.’ (Flowers Gallery)

Ishbel Myerscough, ‘Self Portrait in a Flower Dress’ (2016)

For Ishbel, then, character exists in physical flaws: her portraits ‘journey to the surface of the human being’ in order to access the deeper relationships that are too often lost within processed images of a beautified reality.

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 is now calling for entries. Open to all UK-based artists, the competition offers a generous range of prizes including a First Prize of £6000, Second Prize of £3000 and Third Prize of £1000. Apply online by 5pm on Monday 25 June: sundaytimeswatercolour.artopps.co.uk

Ishbel Myerscough, ‘Mothers and Daughters’ (2014)

Cass Art interviews Young Artist Award Winner 2017 Elizabeth McCarten

Are you considering entering The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 but feel a little overwhelmed by the application process? If so, then take a look at Cass Art’s interview with Elizabeth McCarten, in which the Young Artist Award Winner 2017 talks about her prizewinning piece and considers the submitting existing work/creating new work conundrum. See below for a snippet and visit the Cass Art Blog to read the interview in full.

‘Forests of Sandim’, Elizabeth McCarten

Entering an art competition can be a daunting process.  Opinion seems to be divided as to whether you should submit existing work or produce work specifically for a particular competition.  Where do you stand on this and is there any additional advice that you would give to prospective competitors? 

Entering a competition such as The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition is a fantastic chance to get your work out to a wider audience and if that is an incentive for you to make new work or try out a new medium I think that is wonderful and would definitely support other artists to do so – whether you get through to the exhibition stage or not! I do not usually enter many competitions however The Boboli Gardens piece was something that already existed and I felt would be appropriate to put forward to the competition and this is generally my approach to applying or entering competitions or other opportunities!

‘The Boboli Gardens’, Elizabeth McCarten

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 is now calling for entries. Open to all UK-based artists, the competition offers a generous range of prizes including a First Prize of £6000, Second Prize of £3000 and Third Prize of £1000. Apply online by 5pm on Monday 25 June: sundaytimeswatercolour.artopps.co.uk