And over to you… Introducing guest blogger Robin Pearce

The first in a series of posts written by guest bloggers, all of whom will be exhibiting as part of The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018, on display from 18 – 23 September at Mall Galleries.  First up is painter Robin Pearce, whose melancholic work Down by the Seaside is also laced with a pervasive sense of foreboding.

As an exhibitor in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 I thought it would be interesting to write a blog post giving some insight into my creative process and the techniques employed in relation to my selected work, Down by the Seaside. I’d like to focus in particular on a technique I relied on when using acrylic paint, a technique which is typically associated with watercolour rather than acrylic, but without which the painting could not have been realised.

Robin Pearce, ‘Down by the Seaside’, SOLD

My inspiration generally comes from a variety of sources and is usually experienced as a sudden visualisation of either a basic or more fully-formed composition. However, even with a well-formed initial composition it is rare that this is what emerges in the final work. My sources of inspiration can be as diverse as a piece of music, a shape in the natural environment, a passage in a book or, as in Down by the Seaside, a fleeting shot of a man sitting on an upturned boat in an old black and white film. This inspiration is then developed, first via a quick sketch grabbed as soon as the image is visualised, and then again as it is transferred into a rough drawing on the painting surface. During these initial processes the image is further fleshed-out with elements added either for compositional balance or to elucidate any early ideas of meaning. It was at this stage that the concept of the wall in Down by the Seaside developed from being simply a background to the composition to being the key element in the final work.

Robin Pearce, ‘Last Out’

I allow meaning and ambiguity to develop together but neither are predetermined. The creative process being, for me, one of ongoing discovery rather than a planned final result which is then technically executed. This makes my experience of the process exciting, surprising and in some ways meditational. It is an experience of the work being created as much as an experience of my creation of the work.

Once I have the basic concept fleshed-out I turn to the choice of palette. For Down by the Seaside I have used two basic colours – apart from in one small detail – for the whole work: Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. These two colours in the Winsor and Newton Professional Acrylic range neutralise each other completely, providing me with the darkest tones and the coloured greys of the wall. I chose this highly restricted pallet – with both colours being used at different levels of neutralisation – to give the finished work its overall atmosphere.

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I chose acrylics not only to help me create the atmosphere that I wanted, but also because this particular range allowed me to break one of the ‘rules’ of acrylic painting by using the paint – at times – more like watercolour than acrylic. I added water to the acrylic paint, diluting it until it resembled a typical watercolour wash – this cannot normally be done with acrylics as the resultant paint surface would be unstable. This heavily diluted paint was used to produce the dark streaks on the wall which are possibly the most vital element of the final work.

A little more detail… The paint was diluted in a container and then what is essentially pigment in water was brushed onto the surface of the painting. Applying this layer was a delicate operation as brushing water onto the previously painted surface with even a mild amount of pressure can remove said surface. However, it had to be done, as for the wash to work it had to be applied with a brush as opposed to simply being allowed to flow. This was particular true with Down by the Seaside where I was covering such large areas of the work, as the shape of the wash would inevitably have a major impact on the painting’s overall compositional balance.

Robin Pearce, ‘Moment’

For me, an understanding of a work progresses throughout its composition and ends with the person viewing the work. Writing this blog post has given me space to revisit Down by the Seaside and has granted me greater insight into it as I try to see it afresh from a viewer’s perspective. My reaction to the work brings to the surface the darker side of the seaside experience: that of locals scraping a living, in stark contrast to, and unseen by the visitors enjoying the idealised experience of beach, ice-cream and fish and chips.

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2018 – Prizewinners Announced

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition is delighted to announce the Prizewinners of the 2018 Competition. Now in its 31st year, the competition is the largest and most prestigious showcase of contemporary watercolour painting in the UK, and continues to celebrate and reward excellence and originality in the medium of watercolour.

Sophie Charalambous, The Prodigal Son, Watercolour on Khadi paper, 112 x 114 cm

The First Prize of £6,000 has been awarded to London-based artist-designer Sophie Charalambous whose Prizewinning watercolour The Prodigal Son depicts a stylised male figure walking through an eerie farmyard setting – the warped perspective and abstracted forms make the work seem almost theatrical. The artist said that “working from observation and memory, I explore, through drawing, the theatricality of every day places, re-imagining them with a heightened sense of reality and detail.”

Michael Chance, Growth of the Soil, watercolour, ink, honey, gum Arabic, 112 x 86 cm

Royal Drawing School alumnus Michael Chance has received the £3,000 Second Prize for his ethereal mixed media work Growth of the Soil. The artist combines a poetic engagement with landscape and an intellectual interest in perspective, architecture, ecology, systems theory and exo-planetary science. He uses printmaking processes to experiment with material interactions, creating images that are both observational and illusory.

Richard Anthony Elliot, Diving Boards, Crystal Palace, watercolour, 120 x 120cm

The Third Prize of £1000 has been awarded to Richard Anthony Elliott for Diving Boards, Crystal Palace – a painterly interior scene that juxtaposes sharp geometric forms with soft watercolour marks, the minimal palette of subtle blues and greys beautifully lifted by an orange and yellow hue in the foreground. Diving Boards, Crystal Palace is a true celebration of contrasts – in form, in colour, and in tone.

The 2018 judging panel comprised Ishbel Myerscough, artist; Paul Newland, artist; Jennifer Scott, Sackler Director at Dulwich Picture Gallery; James Stewart, Director of Zimmer Stewart Gallery, and Louis Wise, critic and writer for The Sunday Times.

The Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition will run from 18 – 23 September 2018 at Mall Galleries, London before touring to Guildford House Gallery (10 November – 29 December 2018) and Sainsbury Gallery, Willis Museum, Basingstoke (12 January – 27 March 2019).

Join the conversation:

Twitter: @STWatercolour; @ParkerHarrisCo

Facebook: @SundayTimesWatercolour; @ParkerHarrisCo

Hashtag: #STWC18

Shortlisted Artists Announced


Rewarding excellence and originality in contemporary watercolour painting
18 – 23 September 2018, Mall Galleries, London

Paul Regan, ‘Edge of London: Dancers Lane VII’ (2018)

Now in its 31st year, The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition is the largest and most prestigious prize for contemporary watercolour painting in the UK. Whether it be through abstract or figurative, contemporary or traditional, the competition aims to celebrate and redefine the beauty and diversity of watercolour and water-based media.

Eighty works have been selected from a total of 1,304 submissions by a panel of leading figures from the art world. The 2018 judging panel includes Ishbel Myerscough, artist; Paul Newland, artist; Jennifer Scott, Sackler Director at Dulwich Picture Gallery; James Stewart, Director of Zimmer Stewart Gallery, and Louis Wise, critic and writer for The Sunday Times. The Winners will be announced in the Culture section of The Sunday Times in August.

The seventy-five shortlisted artists are as follows:

Jacqueline Abel John Abell Roger Allen
Ashley Amery Bob Armstrong Sue Atkinson
Julie Barnes Greg Becker Varsha Bhatia
Akash Bhatt Day Bowman Victoria Braithwaite
Julian Bray David Brayne Claire Brewster
Susan Brown Michael Chance Sophie Charalambous
Lottie Cole Adrian Coleman Julie D Cooper
Janet Darley Catharine Davison Adam De Ville
Richard Elliott Mark Entwisle Suzy Fasht
James Faure Walker Bobbye Fermie Laura Footes
Richard Fowler Michael Gage Lavinia Gallie
Nikki Gardham George Gilbert Alexander Gilmour
Jenny Graham Jelly Green Imogen Guy
Henry Hagger David Hamilton Esther Jeanes
Eliza John Henry Jones Suman Kaur
Caroline Kent Zoe Laughlin Frank Laws
Debbie Lee Clio Lloyd-Jacob Peter Lloyd-Jones
Tom Mabon Russell Macaulay Anne Magill
Michael Middleton David Nealon J. A. Nicholls
David A Parfitt RI Brian Parker Robin Pearce
Paul Regan Jon Rogers Zoe Savory
Sarah Seymour Jayne Stokes Jan Symes
Eleanor Taylor Rebecca Truscott-Elves Philip Tyler
Jenny Wheatley Nigel Whittaker Michael Williams
Roy Willingham Gertie Young Martha Zmpounou

The shortlisted works will be shown at:
Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1: 18 – 23 September 2018
Guildford House Gallery, Surrey: 10 November – 20 December 2018
The Sainsbury Gallery, Willis Museum, Basingstoke: 12 Jan – 27 March 2019

Join the conversation…

Twitter: @STWatercolour; @ParkerHarrisCo
Facebook: @SundayTimesWatercolour; @ParkerHarrisCo
Hashtag: #STWC18

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: