This year’s Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Annual Exhibition is now available to view online. It will open in the gallery Thursday 30 March and is on until Saturday 8 April.
The exhibition showcases the work of many of the UK’s established painters, alongside new and emerging talent who are working in watercolour, acrylic, ink, and gouache.
We spoke to Chris Myers, the newly elected President of the RI about the exhibition, his involvement in the society, and about his work more broadly. We hope you enjoy learning more and are able to visit us at the gallery to see the RI Annual Exhibition.
Q&A with Chris Myers:
What is your artistic background and your history with the RI?
After doing a foundation course at Maidstone College of Art, I remained there to do a three year graphic design course. A lot of my work leaned towards illustration and photography rather than pure technical graphics and typography. During my foundation course I was taught the fundamentals of observation and drawing by the sadly missed Fred Cuming who was teaching part-time at the College at that time.
I then worked as a joint partner in a graphic design company specialising in packaging and print graphics. I started using watercolour originally as a means of colouring line drawings for illustration work for the advertising industry. Watercolours and gouache were convenient because they were compact, portable and dried quickly which helped with short deadlines for illustration work going to print.
I started creating paintings in their own right in the late 80s. I entered two watercolours in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition. Both were accepted and one sold and I thought perhaps this is easy……I continued to get work accepted, but I was wrong in that assumption.
Apart from the Sunday Times competition I entered the Royal Watercolour Society, the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours Open Calls at Mall Galleries. In the beginning I concentrated more on the RWS but after a few years it seemed that my style suited the RI more.
During the early 2000s, I had quite a few paintings accepted by the RBA and was encouraged to apply for Membership, which I did, and was elected in 2006. Shortly after that I joined the Council. As I saw myself as a watercolourist primarily, I wanted to be accepted into a watercolour society and so after a few more years of submitting work to RI Exhibitions, I was eventually accepted for Membership of the RI in 2009.
What have been the benefits of being a member of the RI?
It’s about community. Painting can be a solitary occupation so it is very satisfying to have your work appreciated and approved of by your peer group and like minded people who share the same enthusiasm for watercolours. As well as this, the history and tradition of the RI is extremely important to me.
What does it mean to you to be elected as the RI’s president?
I didn’t have a lifelong ambition to become the President of the RI, or any institution if I’m honest. I joined the RI Council in 2017, shortly after the sad death of Andy Wood. Andy and I were fellow members of the RI and the RBA. He had asked me a number of times to join the RI Council but at the time I was a member of the RBA Council which I felt was sufficient. Then after Andy died and the Vice President Rosa Sepple stepped in as President, I felt that there was a contribution that I could make, and in respect of Andy’s wishes felt that I should offer my services.
How was the selection process for the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours 211th Exhibition?
We received over 1,600 submissions from non-members, and we have chosen just over 200 paintings. Once again we have been able to follow the inclusive tradition on which the RI was originally founded, and present an Exhibition consisting of an approximately 50/50 split of Members’ and non-members’ work hanging alongside each other.
Our Selection Committee try to be as diverse in their selection as possible in order to show the widest range of work from both established watercolorists as well as young and emerging artists working in water based media.
What can collectors and art buyers, as well as lovers of art, expect from the RI exhibition?
The RI is an opportunity not to be missed mainly for the diversity that I have just referred to, and the unique opportunity to see and hopefully buy some beautiful work from a very wide range of styles and genres. Purchasing work is an extremely simple process and of course now all the work can be accessed via the ‘browse and buy’ feature of the online version of the RI Exhibition. The online version of our 211th Exhibition is available now.
Where do you see the future of the RI and as the new president, do you have any upcoming plans for the society?
As President, I would like to make a contribution in the endeavour to keep the profile of the process of watercolour painting present and significant in our current time where the huge and easy accessibility to visual media of all kinds may seem to threaten to engulf many traditional mediums. The RI Council and I have plans in place to improve our online presence in order to hopefully achieve this. We hope that the immediacy and spontaneity of watercolour will continue to appeal to the new and emerging artists who we continue to meet each year.
More about Chris' Art:
Chris Myers in his studio.
Where does your inspiration come from and what is your process?
My inspiration comes from all over; places I’m in, people I’m with, music I’m listening to. I don’t really ‘set myself up’ for a painting, but will usually be inspired while I’m doing something else, often not related to painting at all. But I’m always waiting for something to happen or arrive.
After producing storyboards for the advertising industry for years I am very aware of the camera’s limitations and the danger of relying too much on the rigidity of a reference photograph. I produce a rough sketch before a painting as this reveals what not to include in the composition. I have a tendency to put too much into a painting, so ‘less is more’ is a good mantra to follow.
I have not engaged with ‘Plein air’ much in my career but have recently been lured out of my studio by members of the Wapping Group which I found enjoyable and daunting in equal measure. I much admire many of our RI Members who do paint en plein air such as Roger Dellar, Brian Smith and Brendan Smith.
Classic cars are a big feature in your work, are these your favourite things to paint?
Classic cars are one of my favourite subjects although these paintings often include people too as it’s the atmosphere that I try to capture. These cars, although beautiful objects in their own right, are enhanced by the enthusiasts who own, fettle and drive them.
I have been given a slightly ‘tongue in cheek’ title as ‘Artist in Residence’ at Benjafield’s Racing Club, by a good friend of mine who introduced me to this world of noise, fumes and enthusiasm in the first place. Benjafield’s doesn’t really have a ‘residence’ in terms of a building but does reside in the heart and minds of its Members who endeavour to preserve the spirit of the original Bentley Boys who drove Bentley racing cars to victory in the 1920s. I have attended many of their racing events at Le Mans and Goodwood and at Ascari in Spain, and produced limited editions of posters for them.
Bright Phébus and the Horseless Carriage, Chris Myers RBA PRI, 42 x 42cm, £1,800
Can you talk more about your private commissions?
I enjoy doing commissions as they have a comfortable similarity to what I did as a freelance illustrator. It takes some of the struggle and decision making out of what to paint. You usually know exactly what your client wants, all you have to do is produce a painting that fulfils their expectations and which satisfies you as well. I am usually commissioned to paint Classic cars, people or portraits or the occasional music inspired subject. It’s a great way to get to know people as well.
Who are your biggest artistic inspirations?
Lots of artists have influenced me over the years, probably not all directly influencing the way I paint but perhaps in just the way their work ‘speaks’ to me.
This includes the watercolours of: John Singer Sargent, Russell Flint, Andrew Wyeth, Whistler, Thomas Moran, Turner, Winslow Homer, Frank Brangwyn, Leslie Worth and Peter Blake, the more illustrative work of Ernest Shepherd, Tom Browne (an RI Member), Mervyn Peake, Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Ralph Steadman and Milton Glaser, and the work of Edward Hopper, Egon Schiele, Norman Rockwell, Leyendecker, Wayne Thiebaud, and Hokusai (who produced some of his best work in his last 30 years which gives hope to us all) and the more provocative, Kyosai.
My surroundings also inspire me. I love my studio at the bottom of my garden at home in Frant! I’m also inspired when in my stone cottage in Normandy that my wife and I bought over 40 years ago. Music can also really assist my process. If I want to paint calmly in the morning: Debussy, if I’m running late I put Charlie Parker on. For all other purposes I particularly love Dylan, Steve Reich or Velvet Underground!
REQUEST AVAILABLE PORTFOLIO
We hope you enjoyed learning more about Chris Myers, President of the RI, and feel inspired to see the exhibition in person, opening Thursday 30 March. You can already see and buy the selected works online.
View the RI Online