Discover more about the exhibitions held at Mall Galleries through interviews with artists, photo essays, prize winners lists and video and audio content. Mall Galleries publish content from all Federation of British Artists Art Society Exhibitions.

Prize Winners | Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2020


The Royal Society of Portrait Painters and Mall Galleries are delighted to announce the Prizes & Awards from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition 2020. 

Congratulations to all artists who have been awarded prizes by our generous prize givers. 

The exhibition is open at Mall Galleries until Saturday 26 September. 

Book Your Tickets

If you cannot make the exhibition we hope that with videos, audio, images, and statements by the winners to watch, hear, see, and read, you can experience and enjoy their works wherever you are.

The exhibition is also available to Browse & Buy online now. 

The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture

Shuang Li

Woman in a Stadtische Galerie

The work uses traditional European techniques to detail an elderly woman who lived in Germany during World War II.

The work expresses the sitter's inherent persistent spirit and conveys the vicissitudes of time. The dress is a reflection of contemporary tradition.

The de Laszlo Foundation Award

Nneka Uzoigwe

Lily Before the Play

A portrait painted from life of the wonderful Lily Holder prepared to go on stage.

Prince of Wales's Award for Portrait Drawing

Jack Freeman

Walkie Talkie

I made this drawing of Patricia after a walk through Grantchester near Cambridge. The evening light made the scene particularly poignant. I wanted to capture the feeling of a walk, late in the day, through countryside, and I think the smokey blackness of the charcoal - particularly as it works into this hand-made paper gives the picture a grainy sentimentality.

Burke's Peerage Foundation Award

Joshua Waterhouse

Dame Glynis Breakwell

I would like to thank the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and Burke's Peerage Foundation for this prize. It was such a pleasant surprise to hear that I won.

This is a study for a much larger painting of Dame Glynis Breakwell commissioned by the University of Bath of their retiring Vice-Chancellor. In the larger painting, the setting is much clearer; the Vice-Chancellor is sitting in her living room on an ornately embroidered chair surrounded by objects which tell the story of her career. In its reduced size, this painting hints at some of the finer details in the larger portrait but is dominated by the large yellow background.

I always paint on wood panels, which I prime in the studio. Before I start drawing, I always rub in a thin layer of transparent red oxide, just to get rid of any white. Once the drawing is established, I start blocking in the lights and darks by using Burnt Umber and Titanium White. Then for the second pass, I start introducing colour and try to establish a palette. For the third pass, I'll work much more meticulously using finer detail and adding nuance to the painting; then I add glazes if I feel that certain parts need cooling or warming or darkening.

Once everything is dry, I add a layer of retouched varnish … in order to re-saturate some of the colours that may have sunken in - this is particularly a problem for darker colours, especially ivory black (which you can see on the sitter’s dress).

Smallwood Architects Prize

Steven Wood


Sandancer is the name used to describe those who come from the town of South Shields, Tyne & Wear, although the term is hardly known by anyone outside the local area.

The sitter, Julie Kassim, is on one of the different beaches in South Shields in a place called Frenchman’s Cove. Scattered around the painting are symbolic of runes that represent her spirituality and beliefs in the supernatural and white magic.

The image is placed in landscape form giving the viewer a sense of floating above her.

The RP Prize for the Best Small Portrait

Robbie Wraith RP

Studio Portrait

The RP Award

Stephen Leho

The Most Important Thing in the World

The sitter holds a small mobile she made, it represents the solar system. She has unsettled it and is straightening the threads.

The painting is about mental health and emphasises the need to stay in the present.

Discover the exhibition online now



Climb every mountain, or at least, paint it

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Whether the lockdown has meant you have spent more time in nature, or been separated from it, we hope you enjoy this collection of paintings of rolling hills and soaring mountains produced by members of the Federation of British Artists as part of The Figurative Art Fair.

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Frances Bell RP Bonfire at Akeld Oil on board £1,845 Buy this painting

"In early spring there are number of attractive bonfires on farm yards as they prepare for the coming summer. I love the rusett light and blue smoke." Frances Bell RP

Akeld is a village in Northumberland.

Toby Wiggins RP Burning Rock: Mount Elijah above Ano Boularii, Mid-afternoon Oil on canvas £4,500 Buy this painting

"Lemon yellow, red ochre and stark, bleached whiteness. Shards of rock push through dry stream beds, stunted leathery shrubs - needle, spike, spine and prickle all baked and cured in the fierce sunlight." Toby Wiggins RP

Toby Wiggins RP Mani Mountain Tower Oil on canvas £4,500 Buy this painting

‘...towers and walls that so exactly tallied in texture and colour with the stone crop of the surrounding hills that it was as if the landscape had shrugged them together into a system of lanes and shot those tall parallelograms into the air on a sudden subterranean impulse.’ Patrick Leigh Fermor 

Andrew Stock SWLA Alpine Ridgeway Watercolour £800 Buy this painting

"Alpine Ridgeway was painted in Austria (Gargellen) in February 2019. It was one of a series of Alpine paintings I worked on." Andrew Stock SWLA

Richard Rees PS Sahara Fort, Morocco Oil pastel on paper £525 Buy this painting

"The Fort is right on the edge of the great sand dune area south of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and near an area popular for overnight camel trips. The scale of the dunes is emphasised by the juxtaposition of the Fort in the foreground. The light is near sunset, which makes the sand glow and emphasises the sinuous form of the dunes." Richard Rees PS

Salliann Putman NEAC Black Hills Watercolour & gouache £775 Buy this painting

Clare Haward NEAC County Sligo Oil on linen on board £900 Buy this painting

Tessa Coleman NEAC Crushed Milk Bottle and Paper Bag Oil on gesso panel £1,500 Buy this painting

"This still life was playtime in the studio. I just grabbed a few odds and ends that were lying around and made the painting all about the colour and abstract shapes that came about by a haphazard arrangement of objects, observed up close from a low point of view. " Tessa Coleman NEAC

I think this looks like a mountain scene, so I included it in this collection!

David Allen RSMA Winter Sun, Bolton Abbey Oil £750 Buy this painting

Colin Allbrook RSMA RI River Taw 22nd April 2020 Oil on board £495 Buy this painting

"One of a series of the River Taw and valley opposite my house here in North Devon painted "pleine aire" during this current lockdown." Colin Allbrook RSMA RI

There are lots more landscape paintings in The Figurative Art Fair

View The Figurative Art Fair

The Figurative Art Fair is the only exclusively online art fair for the finest contemporary representational art.

Presented by the Federation of British Artists, The Figurative Art Fair features 248 works for sale by around 100 elected members of the country’s leading national art societies, including:

  • The Pastel Society (PS)
  • Royal Society of British Artists (RBA)
  • Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI)
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP)
  • New English Art Club (NEAC)
  • Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA)
  • Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA)
  • Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI)

Make a Donation

Exhibition Admission is usually £5. If you enjoy viewing the exhibition online, and could consider making a donation to help us through this period of closure, any amount would be greatly appreciated.

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Image credit

Andrew Stock SWLA, Alpine Ridgeway (detail)

Paintings of Windows, Paintings from Windows

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If eyes are the windows of the soul, what meaning do windows have in paintings? Letting the light in, allowing us to breathe, giving us an escape, keeping us snug and safe when it is dark outside.

There are lots of windows in the paintings in The Figurative Art Fair

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Tessa Coleman NEAC Rear Window Oil on canvas £1,900 Buy this painting

"This is a small painting of light-catching surfaces. The challenge here was how to capture a sense of Charlene’s features whilst looking directly into the light of the window behind her, as most of the time the details of her features were practically invisible against the light. I tried to keep the whole painting as minimal and as delicate as possible without losing the bite in the drawing.

I kept in mind Vermeer’s Lacemaker whilst grappling with Charlene, a painting unsurpassed in my view for containing an entire world in a tiny slice of life.

In Lawrence Gowing’s words: “The Lacemaker bends intently over her pursuit, unaware of any other happenings, it is perhaps the fact that she is so absorbed, enclosed in her own lacy world, that allows us to approach her so close.”

Looking at the painting up close one sees all surface light being described in marvellously delicate and subtle paint application, the red skeins of thread being spun into lace are utterly extraordinary, paint and thread simultaneously." Tessa Coleman NEAC

Melissa Scott-Miller RP NEAC RBA Irises on a Studio Stool by a Sunny Window Oil on canvas £900 Buy this painting

"This is a square oil painting of flowers next to a window on a sunny day, with closely observed and detailed rendering of the petals and painterly rendering of the artists' wooden paint-encrusted stool." Melissa Scott-Miller RP NEAC RBA

June Berry NEAC The African Violet Watercolour £800 Buy this painting

Andrew Farmer ROI Wild Flowers Oil on panel £450 Buy this painting

"An original oil painting from my ongoing Wild Flowers series, this piece was painted from direct observation. The flowers were collected during our daily exercise under lockdown here in the UK." Andrew Farmer ROI 

James Horton PPRBA Kitchen Interior with Tulips Oil on canvas £2,300 Buy this painting

Part of a series of Lockdown Interiors by James Horton, Past President of the Royal Society of British Artists.

Victoria Jinivizian NEAC Tidcombe Oil on gesso panel £2,100 Buy this painting

Steven Outram RBA Belonging Oil £2,300 Buy this painting

"Twilight - a figure on a path seeing a house surrounded by trees, with stars in a fading blue sky - seeing the beauty of place." Steven Outram RBA

David Poxon RI When We Were Young Pure watercolour £2,250 Buy this painting

Neil Pittaway NEAC Blue Danube Facade Pen and ink drawing on paper £850 Buy this painting

"This detailed dip pen and ink drawing is based from drawings I made on earlier trips to Budapest and Bucharest and is based on the Art Nouveau Architecture of both those cities and is a romanticised and imaginary interpretation of that period's architecture and culture with the title referencing Johan Straus' Waltz of the Blue Danube." Neil Pittaway NEAC

Rosa Sepple PRI Kitchen Window Water-based mixed media £2,450 Buy this painting

"The view through the kitchen window of a spring holiday home along the Cornish coast." Rosa Sepple PRI

Richard Sorrell RBA NEAC Memory Room Acrylic £825 Buy this painting

Richard Sorrell RBA NEAC Spring Indoors Oil £2,225 Buy this painting

There are other windows in the paintings in The Figurative Art Fair to explore...

View The Figurative Art Fair

The Figurative Art Fair is the only exclusively online art fair for the finest contemporary representational art.

Presented by the Federation of British Artists, The Figurative Art Fair features 248 works for sale by around 100 elected members of the country’s leading national art societies, including:

  • The Pastel Society (PS)
  • Royal Society of British Artists (RBA)
  • Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI)
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP)
  • New English Art Club (NEAC)
  • Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA)
  • Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA)
  • Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI)

Make a Donation

Exhibition Admission is usually £5. If you enjoy viewing the exhibition online, and could consider making a donation to help us through this period of closure, any amount would be greatly appreciated.

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Image credit

Richard Sorrell RBA NEAC, Spring Indoors (detail)


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For almost as long as there has been painting, there have been paintings of dancers and people dancing. There are 9,000-year-old cave paintings of dancers in India, 5,000-year-old paintings of Egyptian dancers. Painters throughout the ages have sought to capture the movement, music and joy of dance in paint.

Members of the Federation of British Artists are no different, and here is a collection of contemporary paintings of Dancers from The Figurative Art Fair

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Charles Williams NEAC Old People Dancing Oil on canvas £1,500

"Old People Dancing was an image that seemed to emerge unbidden while I was painting. I don't know why: it was about a month before the recent pandemic, so perhaps it was some kind of premonition." Charles Williams NEAC

Chris Bennett ROI Blue Girls II Oil on panel £3,600

Aimee Birnbaum RI Moving As One Watercolour embossed £800

"Moving As One is an embossed watercolour.  It is part of my series of dancers in perpetual motion. It is a metaphor for how we are with each other, reacting and balancing. My own dance training helps me to imagine the figures released from the normal constraint of gravity." Aimee Birnbaum RI

Aimee Birnbaum RI Spring Revelry Watercolour & etching £500

"Spring Revelry is about expressing a release of energy and life force, after a long period of hibernation." Aimee Birnbaum RI

Peter Clossick NEAC Degas Sculpture, Dancer Looking at the Sole of her Right Foot Pen & ink on paper £400

Tessa Coleman NEAC Robert The Dancer Oil on cradled gesso panel £4,500

"Robert is the most elegant of life models, as a professional dancer, he is extraordinarily lithe and flexible and holds a pose with impeccable grace. This is the quality I aimed to capture in this painting of Robert, done in the company of three other painter friends over the course of four painting sessions. It was one of those paintings that fell into place quite naturally, the fineness of Robert’s bone structure and his supple and upright pose reflected in the elegance of the house plants that he is nestled behind.

Painting fabric folds and patterns is not the specialist subject is used to be now that everyone wears jeans, but working out how to paint Robert’s kaftan reminded me of the airy Philip Pearlstein portrait of Linda Nochlin and Richard Pommer I saw a couple of years ago in New York. In the painting Linda Nochlin is wearing a blue and white geometric patterned dress and Philip Pearlstein has painted the folds of the material and the fall of light so precisely, yet with such lightness of touch: paint and fabric at the same time, hard to do and wonderful to look at." Tessa Coleman NEAC 

Ian Cook RI Rehearsal Steps Oil & acrylic £850

"A novice dancer makes tentative strategies on the dance floor, pointing her foot in the pattern of aesthetic hopscotch, visible only to her." Ian Cook RI

Raymond Leech RSMA Arabesque Oil £1,875

Julian Bailey NEAC Bather, Tasmania Oil £4,200

Can you spot the paintings of Singer and Musicians in The Figurative Art Fair

View The Figurative Art Fair

The Figurative Art Fair is the only exclusively online art fair for the finest contemporary representational art.

Presented by the Federation of British Artists, The Figurative Art Fair features 248 works for sale by around 100 elected members of the country’s leading national art societies, including:

  • The Pastel Society (PS)
  • Royal Society of British Artists (RBA)
  • Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI)
  • Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP)
  • New English Art Club (NEAC)
  • Royal Society of Marine Artists (RSMA)
  • Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA)
  • Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI)

Make a Donation

Exhibition Admission is usually £5. If you enjoy viewing the exhibition online, and could consider making a donation to help us through this period of closure, any amount would be greatly appreciated.

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Image credit

Aimee Birnbaum RI, Moving as One (detail)

Voice of Peppa Pig exhibiting work with the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours

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Rising illustrator of children’s books Lily Snowden-Fine has had one of her works selected for the prestigious 208th Exhibition by the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.

View the exhibition now

The success coincides with her first illustrated children’s book a light-hearted zoology work titled Why Do Dogs Sniff Bottoms (published by Thames and Hudson with text by Nick Crumpton). This is something of a ‘full circle’ for Anglo-Canadian, Lily - as a child actress aged just 5, she created the voice of the famous animated character Peppa Pig.

Her work, titled Sometime After Seven O’Clock, is a portrait of an imaginary woman and captures an evening mood with a composition which includes striking tiles of colours created in gouache, the opaque watercolour medium which is her favourite.

Lily Snowden-Fine Sometime After Seven O'Clock Gouache, 32 x 24 cm, £500

Now Lily’s career is divided between creating fine art for exhibition and a growing portfolio of illustrated publications and work: she is already working on two animal-themed works to follow her debut book. The child of two animators, Lily grew up in the UK with a love of illustration and she trained at Ontario College of Art and Design which she credits with launching her career in editorial work but also emboldening her as an independent fine artist.

Of her exhibited work, Lily says: “I love using gouache to create a painting because it’s such a playful palette and suits my style. It allows a new mood for every application and the saturated colours really suit this piece – I really wanted to showcase the textures it provides.”

“Portraits like this are something I’m drawn to – it’s amazing that a simple look in someone’s eye can connect you straight into their world."

Now due to the response to COVID-19, Lily is with her parents in Vancouver, but she is used to working remotely and in a digital world. She was discovered by her first publisher on Instagram and it seems fitting that her prestigious UK exhibition success is – for the time being – online at

View the exhibition now

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Image credit

Lily Snowden-Fine, Sometime After Seven O'Clock (detail)

Ian Sidaway RI: Sketchbooks

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Ian Sidaway RI is a prolific painter of landscapes in watercolours. Ian was due to speak about his use of sketchbooks in the gallery during the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 208th Exhibition. Now that none of us are allowed out, whatever the weather, Ian has shared some images from his sketchbooks with us here.

A studio painting almost invariably has its genesis in a sketchbook work. I produce paintings in Moleskine A4 Landscape sketchbooks which open to give a wide panoramic format. It is not an easy format to work on and presents a number of challenges, not least when presented with a tall subject, however, I like the way the image can be designed across the spread which lends a certain dynamic, different to that seen in traditional rectangular or square formats. I often work on-site but have no problems in supplementing my studio reference with photographs.

When working on location I also make fine liner drawings in a small Moleskine whilst a larger sketchbook painting dries. I also make these type of drawings almost daily as I always carry a book and fine liners in my pocket.

I am not the type of artist, many of which I admire greatly, that work in all weathers, lashing themselves to the mast in order to capture the moment. I like to travel with the minimum of equipment, preferably in fine weather, to a location close to a bar or other form of hostelry.  I am a plein air lightweight. The sketchbook drawings are often painted without a preliminary drawing. A few pencil lines might position key elements but I prefer ‘drawing’ with the brush, placing one shape next to another creating the basic image before beginning to lay washes one on top of the other. I will often rework an image in the studio principally by strengthening the darks which has the almost magical effect of lightening the lights, broadening the tonal range.

Prior to beginning a studio painting, I will often make small compositional sketches in a Moleskine with squared up, Quadrille, pages. Paradoxically I never produce studio work using the same panoramic format of the sketchbooks but will section areas out so that the finished image conforms to the more traditional formats. It is arguable whether or not these small doodles are a necessary part of the process but I find it satisfying. It's a habit I got into after reading ‘Composition of Outdoor Painting’ by Edgar Payne.

I was trained as a designer and used to rail against the graphic qualities that seemed inherent in everything I did. I dreamed of plastering paint onto a canvas with a virtuosity equal to that of Sorolla or Schiele but the penny finally dropped, that was not going to happen, and I realised that I should concentrate and build on those few qualities and strengths already present.

Browse the whole exhibition now

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Image credit

Ian Sidaway RI, Sketchbook, Champ de Mars and Tour Eiffel

Musical Instruments in Watercolour

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Our Bookshop Manager, and one of our most musical members of staff, Natalie Richardson, shares her thoughts on the paintings of musical instruments in the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours online Exhibition.

As I was dancing around my living room the other day, I texted my best friend Alice:

'ABBA dance marathon just about to start in my living room.' 

Her reply? 

'What's the first tune? I shall join you.'

Music has always been a huge aspect of my life, but I'm finding that now more than ever, I'm desperately listening through all the good stuff out there, to lose myself in a moment that isn't about 'you-know-what'. I'm not afraid to admit I've been singing along (badly) and then getting my ukulele out to see if I can play along too. It's not usually a rock-stars' instrument-of-choice, but you've yet to hear me play.

Maybe that's why, as I was listening to '90s Bangers' (hits from my childhood) on the radio, and scrolling through the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours exhibition for work, I realised that there are so many instruments painted in the pictures. It got me thinking that creating music is such an act of togetherness. You need to be present and paying complete attention. If you're out by a beat, you're flat, or you're playing the wrong piece of music (it has been known to happen), it makes a beautiful melody a bit of a cacophony. 

Togetherness is what we're craving right now so can we find that in music?

Roger Dellar PS RI ROI Quartet Watermedia, 46 x 46 cm, £695

I wonder what the musicians in Roger Dellar's 'Quartet' are playing? Let me know what you think. His studies of The Cellist and the player in Violin Performance look so engrossed; the passion and concentration growing stronger as the piece progresses. There are so many classical (and non-classical) players who’ve done amazing virtual performances recently - it’s their creativity, and drive to do everything to try and be together, that impresses me.

Roger Dellar PS RI ROI The Cellist Watermedia, 46 x 46 cm, £695

Roger Dellar PS RI ROI Violin Performance Watermedia, 56 x 56 cm, £795

The string section gets another look-in with Anna Dudley Neill's Signature Tune which has them in a semi-abstract embrace. Initially, I thought there was something a bit ‘MC Escher’ going on here. Then I took some time, and through the lines of sound drawn on the page, I noticed the loving accuracy of the mark-making appear before me, like a study of life. Anna's truly seen the instruments for what they are; learning all their shapes and curves, whilst also capturing their potential, ability and hope, and drawing us into the truth in their beauty. We’ve got time ourselves at the moment to really look, and this powerfully simple act can have a such a calming influence.

Anna Dudley Neill RI Signature Tune Watercolour, 47 x 39 cm, £800

Currently, new friends are a bit hard to come by, but I have found a new one in Hanako. David Gleeson has captured her sly smile and strong gaze; Hanako knows the best is yet to come. Once she lifts the flute to her lips she will transport us all to another plane, filled with colour and light.

David Gleeson Hanako and Flute Watercolour, 77 x 74 cm, £2,500

I'm similarly intrigued with the chap in Geoffrey Wynne's Kind of Blue where the intensity of his eyes travels into my soul and I can hear the distant sounds of his song.

Geoffrey Wynne RI Kind of Blue Watercolour, 50 x 35 cm, £1,600

A good old celebratory fanfare is displayed in Nick Orsborn's Oasis and Aimee Birnbaum's Darwin’s Dream. It reminds me of all the noise the pots and pans, and hands, make for the NHS and keyworkers. Such an act of appreciation and unity. Did you also see the video of the six-year-old whose whole street stood outside their front doors with balloons to sing her ‘Happy Birthday’? Made me well up! Well done everyone, thank you. Keep up the good work and we'll stay home.

Nick Orsborn RI Oasis Watercolour, 36 x 36 cm, £750

Aimee Birnbaum RI Darwin's Dream Watercolour, 67 x 82 cm, £1,500

And on that note (pardon the pun), the final painting I'll draw your eye to (pardon the pun...again) is Rosa Sepple's What's New Pussycat? Not because of the title, although I shall be going to play some Tom Jones and texting Alice shortly, because this is where a lot of us are at the moment: at home, alone, tickling the ivories, with the cats…

Rosa Sepple PRI What's New Pussycat Watercolour, gouache & ink, 28 x 19 cm, £995's 4 o'clock in the afternoon and you're in your corset (pyjamas).

#StaySafe #StayHome #FlattenTheCurve

Browse the whole exhibition now

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Image credit

Nick Orsborn RI, Oasis (detail)

Jean Noble RI: Emerging Painting

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Jean Noble RI would have been painting before an audience in the gallery. We might all be in quarantine, but she has shared the stages of a painting for us to follow along at home.

All my work starts in front of the subject with an initial sketch. In this case, I was looking at the reflections that the bobbing houseboats make in the water. I have combined two different boats with their reflections.

Thinking of the unifying life of people who live their lives cheek by jowl. The pride they have in these boats is quite extraordinary. There are potted plants adorning them. Every inch is painted and loved. The juxtaposition of these homely dwellings beside the towering glass edifices of Canary Wharf I find comforting. I’m glad they haven’t all been swept away in the name of progress.

I prepared the paper with a warm ground and set about blocking out areas. I often use a warm ground if I want to end up with a cool painting and visa versa…..the ground colour usually comes through in edges. In this stage not all the shapes are working…and I’m certainly struggling with the balance of colours. The sketch is the preliminary to the finished painting. It informs but can be altered as the painting evolves.

There is a bit of a jump here as I got rather carried away and forgot to take the photo! However, the warm colours are now still with the brush being painted over and once dry I have assessed the ‘drawing’ part of the painting and taken a charcoal stick to reinforce change some areas.

It is beginning to come together, but I’m not sure I like the connecting houseboat roofs….the large bar of green going through the paper and there are too many erratic bits of colour. Some of the shapes are not pleasing me either!

Well having painted it in with a palette knife…a bit heavy-handed I know I don’t like the ‘bar’ of turquoise green. I also find the creamy yellow on the right disturbing (actually this looks worse in the photo than it does on the painting). Taking photos does often show up where the problems lie!…are my eyes ever going to settle …I know I want to keep the painting interesting and allow the viewer the chance to roam around the painting….but this is just too scattered!

OK. I’ve calmed some areas down a bit…a little more unity and changed some of the tones. I like to build up colours on top of one another. Edges get better…I love edge qualities!

The centre red has been in and out a few times…I can’t quite make my mind up about it. They aren't ‘talking’ to one another yet. I’m trying to show the integrating qualities of this type of living…it probably is a bit busy but then watching the people on a warm day on the boats that’s how I remember it too.

Now I’ve introduced the warm back into the painting with a warm grey back again….it was there before then I tried the turquoise blue …..but back it has come although some of the under colour always remains…this gives a more interesting variation to the colour surface.

I’ve lost a few of the shapes and changed that turquoise ‘bar/roof’ completely. I’ve put away my sketch now and am looking at what the painting needs. It is becoming more lyrical…for me anyway and since I am the artist it must be something that I am comfortable with.

Very nearly finished….I’m beginning to be happy with colour/ tone/shapes and the overall composition of the piece. It’s been a struggle….it is definitely one of my more complicated pieces. But we have the time to challenge ourselves at the moment!

It’s finished! It feels right to me. I think I’ve got the warmth of the day back into it with the hint of golden glow. Whilst retaining the colours and feel of the water that surrounds these homes.

It’s a large piece. It measures 92 x 103 cm. I hope it will fit in the car when the framer has finished with it. 106 cm is the maximum I can paint to without requiring a van!

Here are photographs of four ‘bits of paint’ to show the textures and edge qualities that I try to achieve in my paintings either with finger/brush/ palette knife or coffee stirrer ….the side of a piece of card is also good for applying paint! Actually anything to get the effect you as the artist wants!

Browse the whole exhibition now

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Image credit

Jean Noble RI, work in progress

Exhibition Tour with Tony Hunt RI

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For several years I have taken informal tours round Mall Galleries to view and comment on the works on show for the Annual Exhibition of the RI. With the galleries closed this year, it was suggested that I might like to take a virtual tour of the exhibition to go online.

Now as I travel with my mouse through the exhibited images on my computer screen, my intention is to respond to those paintings that particularly catch my eye: and leave a few words in response.

A starting point is looking for paintings which change or expand our ideas of what a watercolour painting is. The conventions of shape, size, proportion, media, and the support can all be challenged, as can the presentation of the painting.

However, it is equally important to remember that most of these conventions have evolved for pragmatic reasons. Apart from the unique qualities of the watercolour itself (and all of these selected examples are very fine paintings in terms of form and content), the qualities of the presentation are there to protect the painting and to prolong its life.

Thus the frame, the mount and the glazing are there primarily to keep the image flat and dirt-free when it is displayed. Of equal importance to protection is permanence – we don’t want to see the image disappear owing to fugitive paint or inferior paper!

So, it is very interesting to see how certain artists in the exhibition are challenging some of these conventions.  

Julie Green Wild Wanderings Watersoluble mixed media, 84 x 102 cm, £2,350

Julie Green’s painting not only evokes a visual representation of a landscape but in its structure, it echoes the structure of the landscape itself in a most successful way that almost extends the watercolour into sculpture.

Alfred Carpenter Red Rusted Boat Mixed media collage & acrylic, 42 x 36 cm, £475

Similarly, Alfred Carpenter’s Red Rusted Boat frees his image from the restriction of the rectangular perimeter, though still allowing a satisfying interplay with the rectangle of the frame.


Faye Bridgwater 140 Monochrome Studies of Sussex Pencil, watercolour & ink, 68 x 87 cm, £495 
This painting of 140 Monochrome Studies of Sussex by Faye Bridgwater is an imaginative and understanding image, summarising the landscape of Sussex by being the accumulation of its constituent study parts. This painting was awarded The John Purcell Paper Prize.

George Butler Delhi Market Watercolour, 110 x 130 cm, £5,000 - winner of the £3,000 Winsor & Newton Award.

George Butler’s fine Delhi Market observational drawing is enhanced with an assemblage of additional studies and ephemera which retain elements of the total experience of being in that environment.

Watch the video of George speaking about this piece, that was awarded the Winsor & Newton Award for here.

Sheila Vaughan Snail Acrylic, 43 x 61 cm, £400

The apparent simplicity of Sheila Vaughan’s painting belies a sophisticated and imaginative interplay between the inherent qualities of watercolour paint and its application in defining the form of the subject.

Bina Shah Winter Storm on Bracken Fields III Mixed media (Tempera, glair, ink, bitumen, graphite & natural earth pigments), 44 x 35 cm, £975

Robin Hazlewood RI Last Light, The Thames at Barnes Watercolour & white gouache, 49 x 49 cm, £435

An evocative painting by Bina Shah redefines a landscape with confidence and critical analysis; as does this watercolour by Robin Hazlewood RI. In both these instances, the artists have achieved images which cross the boundaries between figuration and abstraction to create paintings that function simultaneously well in both conceptions.

Other paintings which have caught my eye are two portraits. The first, Age of Confidence, is by Daniel Byrne and is a strong image which utilises the watercolour medium very well to explore the personality and appearance of the sitter. The second is Zi Ling’s The Puzzle Garden. This very imaginative and dynamic portrait uses colour and patterns to give life to an image which tells as much about the creator as it does the sitter. These two paintings use quite different routes to reach similar objectives.

Daniel Byrne Age of Confidence Watercolour, 52 x 42 cm, £850

Zi Ling RI The Puzzle Garden Watercolour & collage, 74.5 x 60 cm, £2,300

Teresa Lawler The House on the Edge of the Lake 2 Watercolour & gouache, 70 x 70 cm, £1,050

Teresa Lawler’s accomplished painting uses colour beautifully and expertly to atmospherically convey early twilight as artificial lights are lit.

In terms of really good use of colour, I also select Cool Chilli by Anne Goldberg. Her well-designed and intriguing painting has an original interplay of colour as well as a real rapport between the represented two and three-dimensional elements of the work.

Anne Goldberg Cool Chilli Gouache, 70 x 57 cm, £1,500

On the subject of colour, my attention was taken by a more conventional and traditional application of watercolour in a painting by Junwei Dai. In Fairyland Series 1, Junwei has demonstrated strongly the luminosity, translucency and richness of colour that good handling of the watercolour medium can achieve.

Junwei Dai Fairyland Series 1 Watercolour, 72 x 52 cm, £5,000

Anne Ware Flash Flood in the Lakes Watercolour, 50 x 62 cm, £640

I very much enjoyed looking at Anne Ware’s watercolour Flash Floods in the Lakes. The evocations of hazard, danger, fleeing to safety, the movements of the flooding water and the time scale involved, all encountered and engaged within the parameters of the painting, is quite masterly in its execution.

Derek Robertson What We Lost in the Desert, Refugee Camp, Jordan Watercolour & acrylic, 84 x 103 cm, £4,950

This painting is also arresting in its presence. Derek Robertson’s What We Lost in the Desert, Refugee Camp, Jordan is a powerful image; in topicality, in execution and, ultimately, in its poetry.

Day Bowman Storage Facility 2 Gouache & graphite, 30 x 33 cm, £675 - winner of The Winner & Newton Product Prize

So this brief excursion through the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 208th Exhibition concludes with a widening perception of what a watercolour painting is. The final painting here is Storage Facility 2 by Day Bowman. This is another image which is topical in conception, but economic and dynamic in execution, and evocative of so much of our contemporary world. My mouse rests.

Tony Hunt RI 

Tony Hunt RI Afternoon on the Downs Acrylic, 87 x 67 cm, £1,400

Browse the whole exhibition now

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Image credit

Alfred Carpenter, Red Rusted Boat (detail)

Paul Banning RI RSMA: Sketchbooks

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Paul Banning RI RSMA is a traditional watercolourist specialising in painting plein air, painting in all weathers. He was due to speak about his use of sketchbooks in the gallery during the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 208th Exhibition. Now that none of us are allowed out, whatever the weather, Paul has shared some images from his sketchbooks with us here.

"I have been an avid sketcher from childhood and have accumulated many sketchbooks over the years, and I would like to share just a few images with you with some explanation of what appealed to me about the subject and with an image of the finished painting.

I tend to use an A4 ring binder sketchbook which allows for a double page to be used."


The two images are of much the same subject, Bruges, using the whole page; the first one was abandoned as it poured with rain and the paint began to run - anyway I liked it; ah well! Maybe another time ... and so after the rain I moved to another spot and did the second one, which I then used to develop into a painting.

The Tank Battle of Cambrai November 1915

I am fortunate enough to have two sons who are First World War historians, and I had the opportunity to join them on a trip to Cambrai and the surrounding area, and thought I might be able to get some interesting information for a painting. How lucky I was that we were taken to an old barn where the relics of the tank Battle of Cambrai were being displayed, a damaged full-size tank, ammunition, trucks and debris from the battlefield.

My sketchbook was soon out and my energy level soared as I quickly contour drew the images in front of me. I remember at the time the surge of energy and excitement as I captured the information for my painting.

In a painting that is historical, the facts have to be right so I did a number of small sketches discussing them with my sons before I got to an image that was, to me, both artistic and yet reasonably factual.  

Cutty Sark

I am a member of the Wapping Group of Artists who specialise in painting the River Thames and its estuaries during the summer months, plein air. Fortunately, the Group was invited to visit the site at Greenwich when the Cutty Sark was being refurbished, and permission was given to gather information for a painting. I was able to go down to the keel of the ship where the planking was being renovated, and sat and did this small sketch with some colour notes.

More than anything the atmosphere stayed with me as I used my sketch to develop the finished painting.

Deserted Italy

I have painted in many parts of the world and a sketchbook is so good for capturing immediate information. I spent a couple of weeks with some painting friends in southern Italy in an area called Basilicata in the centre of the Boot of Italy. On one day trip out we drove to a small deserted village on a hilltop, and came across this village which was completely deserted - not a soul in sight. We walked through it going in and out of buildings, all as if the occupants had left in a hurry.

My sketch depicts this hurried departure, rubbish everywhere, and yet some order. Leaving behind certain objects, maybe one last party? So out comes the sketchbook and I captured a number of interesting subjects. This one converted into a full imperial watercolour. The shaft of light through the shutters and that last drink of wine before departing captures the subject.

Jim Carrying Potatoes

I am now in Trinidad, my birthplace and have friends who own a beautiful little cottage overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from the North Coast range of hills, where the sea breeze brings cool air in from the Atlantic as well as much rain. The ground is very fertile and bananas, coconut trees and mango trees grow wild.

This sketch was produced sitting on the side of a very narrow and steep track where a local had a small dwelling! His name was Jim, and he would go out to dig up root crops, potatoes yam and such growing wild. What an opportunity! The sketch is more detailed than usual but I had the time. The sun was shining, it was a warm and a beautiful day - why hurry? Jim saw what I was doing so I persuaded him to show me how he carried the potatoes. In no time he had the sack on his head and I was able to do a quick scribble and put him in the picture. Life can be so good sometimes.


After 9/11, when tourism to the Middle East was slow, I went to Jordan; to Jerash Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and on to Egypt. Having done the day of the tourist in Petra, I spent the next 4 days sketching and gathering information for paintings. My sketchbook went everywhere with me and I was able to produce a number of very good works from these 4 days of sketching.


Passers-by often looked at me and thought and said I was quite mad sitting in the hot sunshine, sketching but I gathered some very good images to work up in the comfort of my studio over the winter months. Here is one of the Treasury in Petra, an amazing structure carved out of the rock by hand and still surviving today. I produced an oil painting and a number of watercolour from the sketches. 

Old Cobblers Shop, Holland

Over a number of years, I made a variety of boat trips sailing around the Ijsselmeer and out into the North Sea with some painting friends. We stopped on one occasion at one of the ports where I discovered this old Cobblers workshop. What attracted me was the mysterious things that seemed to be showing up in the dismal light and a sketch seemed the best way to capture it, unlike a flashed photograph which would have altered the effect of the interior.

Once I had the information down it was very easy to develop it into a painting. Some would say it was rather dull but on the contrary, I feel it is important that we try to paint in different and subdued lights, not just bright sunlight.

Westminster Abbey

I have always been fascinated at this facia of Westminster Abbey and planned to do a little sketch of it.

When I started to sketch I was immediately interrupted by passers- by who wanted to see what I was doing. So I crossed the road and noticed a small triangle area between Victoria Street and Tothill Street where I could sit with my sketchbook in the door way of a shop now a Bank. I was out of sight of the passers bye so an ideal spot to produce my sketch which became a small watercolour. I made notes about colours and was able to study the detail the complicated East window without any interruptions. With this data I produced two in daylight images and one at night. 


The galleries might be closed but you can view the entire Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 208th Exhibition online. Most works are for sale, with prices starting at £350.

View the RI's 208th Exhibition online now

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Image credit

Paul Banning RI RSMA, Sketchbook detail, Bruges