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Dulwich Picture Gallery consultation Invitation

Open Art

Invitation to our Public Consultation
Date: 21 March 2023
Time: Drop in 3-8pm
Place: Linbury Room, Dulwich Picture Gallery
Refreshments will be available

Dulwich Picture Gallery invites you to a drop-in consultation, where the
team will share plans to enhance the Gallery’s three acres of green space,
maximising its unique potential and securing the world’s first purpose built
public art gallery for future generations.

Children are very welcome to attend

Maximising the potential of our three acres of green space

We believe there is huge potential for our outdoor spaces to enhance
creativity, wellbeing and happiness for our communities.

Under the banner ‘Open Art’, our plans comprise two main elements:

  • A children’s picture gallery providing much needed facilities for schools and
  • A sculpture garden with a difference including creative landscaping which
    will stage work by emerging and established artists and the planting of new

Please join us to see the plans, meet the team behind the project, and share
your thoughts. All feedback will be considered in the design and review

We look forward to welcoming you!

For details on getting to the Gallery, visit our website

More information will be published on the website following the
consultation at


Click to download pdf: Dulwich Picture Gallery consultation Invitation

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Advice for a retiring Prime Minister

Frans Hals ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ – Bravura brushwork
It appears that our premiere is taking early retirement, and good for him. We often see the newly retired in our studio and it seems to carry with it a sort of beatific glow, the warmth of possibility with none of the oppression of necessity. He’ll love it.

It seems that to avoid some of the pitfalls of not working: watching telly, eating cake, social isolation, loss of status – a strategy needs to be put in place: keep busy and engage. For those of us gifted with the visual gene, embracing once more our love of art is the perfect way forward.

If Boris’ father is to be believed, Boris is actually rather good at painting. No amount of Googling finds his work but that is no reason to doubt the veracity of Stanley Johnson’s assertion. Charlotte Johnson Wahl, Boris’ mother, was a painter, and these things often run in families. So Boris is well placed to use his talents to grow a late career as an artist; with his connections he’d be well placed as a society portrait painter.

But where to start? Assuming he’s a bit rusty we would always recommend a bit of drawing to get going, to reconnect the eye and the hand. Maybe try our Introduction to Life Drawing which begins again this Autumn or just drop in and draw with Freya or Daisy on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Once the excitement of figure drawing has ignited his creative urges, it would be a good time to take his brush in hand and think hard about colour. He could learn to paint on Friday mornings and then maybe spend his Mondays with Clare Haward or learning portraiture with Alex Tzavaras.

And any time he feels the need to visually feast on flesh he could drop in to any of our long pose sessions on Wednesday or Saturday.

There are those who cruelly suggest that Boris has a distant relationship with truth, in which case observational drawing and painting would do him the world of good, truthfully reporting what is seen without bluff or bluster rewards us with more powerful drawings and paintings and is the foundation of high art and honest workmanship. This close fidelity to nature was championed by Ruskin who felt it not only enhanced our drawing abilities but actually improved us as people.

However, once he had the skills in place it would be hard not to imagine him being seduced by the broad flourishes and bravura brushwork of a painter like Frans Hals, much more his style don’t you think?

Summer Hols

Our term ends on the 23rd of July. After that the studio will be quiet other than Tuesday evenings with Freya which will run throughout the summer. We’ll be back on the 5th September when tutored courses will resume and we hope to be going back to fairly normal drop-in sessions like the old days.

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Master studies

Winslow Homer* – Art-Students and Copyists in the Louvre Gallery, Paris

Master studies

Back in the day, if you were a student at the École des Beaux-Arts, a significant part of your artistic education would have involved plonking your easel in front of an old master painting and carefully copying it. There are plenty of reasons why this was a good idea and one or two why it was not.

The 19th century was a strange place, devoid of digital communications, where it was almost impossible to get a decent latte. Reproductions of fine paintings were engravings or chromolithographs, which carried nothing of the handling of the paint and the colours tended to be a bit approximate. So if you were lucky, it was off to the Louvre where they had days put aside for artists to copy from the old masters.

Some of us will remember that historically a lot of learning was by wrote, there was a correct way of doing things, so copying others who new better was good practice. And art appears to be a continuum, what we produce now is inevitably, if only partially, a consequence of what has gone before.

If you have tried to learn how to paint or draw you may have discovered that there is quite a lot of ground to cover. You can read books, watch videos, talk to artists, take art courses and always draw and paint ceaselessly. But there is also a place for copying the work of another painter. When we copy, new circuits are set up which transcend the usual commerce of mind, following in the strokes of another, placing colour in the way that they do, we can learn the subtle charisma of their work without really being conscious of how.

There is the argument that this form of slavish copying, which was important to academic artists, stifled creativity and lead to mediocrity. If all one did was copy, this would hold water but as part of a portfolio of learning exercises it can inspire and stimulate us whilst we get to grips with the plastic qualities of our medium.

Portrait artist Alex Tzavaras has made master copies and in his latest Youtube video he paints a portrait using what he has learned about Sargent’s technique, both from copying and from contemporary accounts. Worth watching. Alex will be accepting new students onto his portraiture course in September.

Artist Clare Haward often includes copying in her practice and her teaching. She has an exhibition this week at the 155A Gallery in East Dulwich from the 6th – 17th July – you can read more and sign up for the private view here

*Winslow Homer was a pretty good artist, the engraving above was an example of his commercial work but he is probably better known as a marine artist.

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How to stop yourself drawing things

Tintoretto, drawing the light that falls across a head rather than the head.

When we set out to draw and paint we have to struggle with a myriad of fiendish devils who will beset our progress. A familiar one is the demon who draws things. The inexperienced hand, when asked to draw what it sees will identify the motif, an apple for example, and briskly produce an outline, probably with a satisfying bum shape at the stalk end, cheerfully coloured red or green. As time goes by this will become more refined, we look and discover more detail, the contour may be more accurate, the colours nuanced. We look at other artists and our apples may begin to look a bit like theirs.

All good. And yet, our work, no matter how many apples we paint, lacks a certain something. What we are drawing is our understanding of what we see as much as what the eye perceives. The demon who draws things is retrieving all that is known about apples to describe the apple that is being seen. Sometimes that means that the apple described is not really the apple seen but a confection of memory and understanding.

There is of course nothing wrong with this, the history of art is laced through with wonderful assemblages of what are essentially pictograms. For all that, it may not be what we are after personally in our work.

At a certain point in history, possibly around the time that optics were discovered, some artists noticed that instead of engaging the demon who draws things, they could carefully describe the different coloured shapes that light made as it fell across the surface of things, rather than the thing itself. In so doing they found that the ‘thing’ would emerge on their canvas unbidden and what was spectacular was, that it had a quality of newness to it, as if seen for the first time.

Betty Edwards had yet to be born so there was no one to point out that this was essentially a way of drawing with the right side of the brain. The demon who draws things is a bit of a bully. When an apple drawing task is presented he will push to the front and say ‘I’ve got this, I can do apples’ and then, because looking is actually a bit of an effort, pop out the same old apple he’s always drawn. The quiet artist, normally associated with the right brain, face palms but being wordless can say nothing.

We exploit the demon’s laziness by forcing ourselves to look at our motif and see it as a mosaic of different coloured shapes. The demon, unconvinced by what it sees as a pointless task, goes off for a snooze and the quiet artist can get on with the faithful description of the shapes that light makes when it falls across things.

Most artists will work in this way to some extent. Betty Edwards makes it sound very scientific but artists learn from each other, seeing how problems are solved, pinching ideas, absorbing the visual culture. That is one reason that it is so helpful to paint alongside others, both when we begin and as we progress as artists.

Solvent abuse

If being a more sustainable artist is important to you and you don’t want to be assaulted by the solvents you use Michael Correia has kindly pointed out this book by Gwendoline Fife on the effects solvents can have and some alternatives.

Alone at Sea

Clare Haward has a solo show at the 155A Gallery in East Dulwich from the 6th – 17th July – you can read more and sign up for the private view here

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Love me, love my marks.


Listening to Suzon Lagarde teaching the other week I overheard a bit of advice delivered in her charming Inspector Clouseau style French accent: “sometimes you need the playful side and sometimes you need the critical side.., but mostly you need the playful side” A familiar theme but worth returning to again and again until we can honestly allow ourselves to be who we are without a scintilla of self-judgement.

Creativity flourishes in an uncritical atmosphere. But like a well fertilised garden it needs the occasional weed and bit of judicious pruning. The most important part is the flourishing. This is because the critical bit is easy, it relies upon what we have learnt and what we know, we can be judgemental in a good mood or in a bad one, no problem. Creativity, emanating from our wordlessly fecund innards, over which we have no direct control, is a different matter. We cannot will it but we can learn to remove its impediments.

As artists we need to treasure this flourishing as a soprano treasures her voice. Sopranos avoid smokey rooms, shouting and keep well hydrated. We artists should avoid self-hatred and engage with play whenever we can.

Our marks are the rawest of our visual output, like the sound of our voice they are unique to us, in one sense they are our greatest asset. And yet I’ll bet many of us recoil at some of the marks we make, more so than obvious transgressions of proportion or value. So as an antidote to our self criticism we can seek to consciously indulge whatever marks we make, to just witness our output with the generosity of spirit we save for the mud pies built by small children.

When we can see our splats and scratches with that expansive sense of wonder, we begin to see our work not just as others might but we create a positive feedback loop: when we love what we do we begin to love who we are.

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Sustainable painters

I’ve taken to walking the three or four miles to the studio rather than driving or bussing. In so doing I will be saving the planet*. I know it’s a small sacrifice but it is one I am prepared to make; although, I find it hard to believe that as I pant up the hill past the Horniman Museum, I am not expelling more carbon dioxide than my frugal car, because it certainly feels like it.

As we all know, carbon dioxide makes up a full 0.04% of the atmosphere, up from 0.03% 150 years ago and despite the best efforts of our hungry plants, who unlike us love the stuff, it continues to rise. Whilst climate change has allowed some very fine wines to be produced on the Kentish Downs, it’s not all good news so it behoves us to do our bit and reduce our carbon footprint.

As painters this presents some rather bleak choices. Acrylic paint is manufactured from the by products of natural gas extraction. Synthetic brushes are similarly derived from petrochemicals. White spirit? Don’t even go there. Pretty much all of the recent additions to the painters armoury can be traced back to fossil fuel production. So if Greta gets her way what will we do?

As it happens there are those of us who have been quietly sustainable throughout the modern era. If we were to equip ourselves in the same way as any of the renaissance painters or even the impressionists we would be working largely with natural pigments carried in linseed oil and thinned with turpentine from trees. Resins also from trees such as damar might add gloss, beeswax may also have a place. Our pigments could be produced by artisans or hacked from the earth’s crust. I’ve not come across a vegan brush I could use but I would be happy to work with bristle shaved from donor pigs as part of their tonsure. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.

Painters are highly sustainable people.

One thing we could do would be to move from white spirit to vegetable oil to clean our brushes, although that is something you may choose to do anyway to preserve the flexibility of your hogs and to avoid spending your days inhaling volatiles. It is a small change but not all of us can make the grand gestures.

* I’d just like to point out that the frightening increase in both fuel prices and my waistline have not influenced my personal plans to save the planet in any way.

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Paint like Sargent without all the bother of hard work

John Singer Sargent pulling on a fat corona

Apple’s latest offering, the iSlug, is great news for those of us who welcome Big tech and Pharma into our lives. The iSlug is a subdermal device which is painlessly inserted beneath the skin, whereupon its neural interface connects with every aspect of our material existence. Apart from the obvious benefits of giving large corporations direct access to our neuro-physiology, there are some exciting add-ons available too.

As an artist I was pleased to see the inclusion of a Singer Sargent Plug-in which, once installed, will guide the eye and the hand across a painting. Where proportion is poorly described, neural nudgebots will place the hand where it should be, where form is inadequately resolved a reassuringly stern tingling in the fingers will spur us on. When squeezing out paint an involuntary reflex will empty half a tube of vermillion onto your palette – for Sargent was notably lavish with his pigments. (This one is sponsored by Winsor and Newton)

Where value has been misjudged, a friendly stabbing pain behind the eyes encourages us to look again and muddy colours are rewarded with hair loss and momentary blindness. Economical mark making and elegant edge management will be remunerated with a release of endorphins and a warm sense of smugness.

On a matter of taste, any voluptuous engagement with the flesh will trigger a dizzying nausea, as blood is drained from areas of needless tumescence. Whilst this last one is not really a Sargent thing, it is attuned to the community guidelines of companies like Meta, you know, the ones that shadow ban you on Instagram for putting up a painting with a bit of side boob. So that’s ok.

I am hopeful that my painting will begin to include luscious sweeps of glistening oil paint and bravura brushwork without the tiresome effort of actually having to learn how to do it. Whilst the iSlug and plugins are presently not mandatory, the behavioural insights team are recommending them for all artists so who knows, before long we may all be painting like angels and in glorious lock-step.

There are one or two side effects to be aware of, some users may develop a luxuriant moustache and an inability to resist a fat Havana, but it’s all quite manageable.

As we celebrate our trans-humanist future we can be doubly grateful that with the help of ethical big tech we will not only be better, more sustainable citizens but better artists too. Hurrah!

nb. For those of us who would prefer not to paint like Sargent. Sorry.

Have a fab Jubilee

It’s half-term and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee too

Tutored courses do not run this week and open studios will be closed from Wednesday afternoon until Monday the 6th June. For those of you unfamiliar with the Queen, she is the longest serving monarch since forever and this weekend is going to be a big one to celebrate her 70 years of service. There are lots of things to do – you can see some here


You may find our website looking a little different, we’re having it updated. If you spot anything odd or you have any feedback, do let us know.

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How to be well known

Get a website, do Instagram, engage.

We all know what we should be doing to promote ourselves as artists. Assuming we’d like to sell the occasional painting we have to ‘make known in order to sell’. 

Marketing ourselves can seem like a loathsome occupation, being a self-publicist can feel tawdry and misaligned with our values as artists but ‘making known in order to sell’ is just straight forward communication. There is nothing grubby about selling pictures – and letting people know that pictures are for sale is honest communication, particularly when it is done without hyperbole.

We just had an exhibition, no selling was done, pictures were shown and people liked them enough to buy them. The trick is the ‘making known’.

If people know who we are and what we do over a period of time, they are far more likely to take an interest in our work. Being known by other artists is not a waste of time either, someone may ask them about you. No one wants to be ‘sold’ art but people who love art do want to see it and know about those who create it.

So the task is being visible. For most of us that will mean occupying a slot on social media, as much as you can bear, interacting with people, going to private views, showing wherever you can, having a mailing list, entering open exhibitions and of course, having a website. Gallery representation can clearly be part of the mix.

As your reputation grows, your name alone will sell your work, until then it is more likely that your collectors will be those who know you more personally.

Stella Cardew Exhibition

Stella Cardew has an exhibition on this week. Stella is an excellent artist who has run a couple of workshops for us and is a bit of a local treasure. (Her shows usually sell out and she does precious little marketing, is not on Instagram and keeps a low profile – but she is known in the old fashioned way and has her fans.)

Jeannie Avent Gallery
14 North Cross Road
SE22 9EU

From midday Wednesday 25th May to midday Wednesday 1st June 2022
Open 11-5 daily, but you may like to phone first to confirm

Private view 5-7pm on Saturday 28th 


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Is it Monday?

It’s hard to tell… after an exhibition, or indeed a big performance of any kind, things get a bit blurry. If I remember correctly we had a fabulous exhibition where thirty five artists showed their work over the weekend. Some really beautiful art was shown, the standard this year was phenomenal, we could all feel proud hanging our pictures next to each other.

On Saturday night we had our private view and after the hard push to get things ready, the flow of wine and canapés allowed us to decompress in the best of ways, in the company of art makers and those who love them. The food was outstanding – thank you Carole and Alexander and those who supported them.

The Artists Open House event was being run by a new team this year and they worked hard to get the footfall up, so there was not a moment over the weekend when we did not have visitors in the studio. With all the connections made and the energy generated, a good show is about so much more than sales of course, but it’s always good to see artists popping on the red dots, some for the first time.

Artists spend a good deal of time in their own company, we are used to fixing our own problems without bothering others, so it is brilliant to see how well we worked as a team, everyone selflessly pitching in to make sure it ran smoothly. Some of you will have met Ana, our administrator, for the first time; we can thank her potent organisational skills for much of the detail work which is so essential to a successful event, and this was her first exhibition too.

We are ambassadors for observational art, sharing the way we see the world and describing it using rare skills which some see as anachronistic. Browsing the show it was clear that what we do has an intensity that can only come from good quality looking and that is simply timeless.