This is the second TB tribute axe I designed with Tommy's brother, Johnnie Bolin, and the Dean custom shop. It's selling very well, check it out at all major music retailers or http://www.deanguitars.com/bolin_series.php.
I'm really honored and excited to be one of the judges for this new, unprecedented exhibition taking place this year in Europe. The Art of Watercolouris sponsoring the event, and it features quite an array of prizes (including the biggest cash award in watercolor), exhibition and publishing opportunities for many, and EVERY entry that passes the first selection process will
get published in a special edition of the magazine, distributed
in 32 countries!
You want to be recognized as one of the world’s
greatest watercolourists! See your work in the leading art magazines and
receive offers to exhibit in the top shows worldwide! Win up to $12,000
in cash! It is what all artists dream of and now this dream could
become your reality.
For the past four years The Art of Watercolour, and the magazine’s French edition, L’Art de l’Aquarelle
have promoted the talent of watercolour artists from all horizons into
32 different countries. We can do better. Today we are taking another
step forward creating “The World Watercolour Competition”,
aiming at stimulating artists worldwide and pushing the boundaries of
technique, creativity and originality. There is $25,000 cash prizes to
be won, no theme or size imposed and the competition is open to all
artists; amateur and professional, from all nations. This competition,
of four selection processes, offers the chance of a lifetime for all who
THE MAIN PRIZES (this list is not conclusive and none of the prizes are accumulative):
• The Jury’s Gold Award of Excellence : $12,000 + a major Portfolio article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines
• The Jury’s Silver Award : $5,000 + a major article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines.
• The Jury’s Bronze Award: $3,000 + a major article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines.
• The Best French Artist Award : $2,000 + an article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines.
This prize is open to French artists only.
• The best painting award for a painting valued under $1,000 : $1,000 + an article inThe Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle.
• The best amateur artist’s painting : $1,000 + an article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines.
• The best young artist award (open only to artists under 30 years of age) : $1,000 + an article in The Art of Watercolour and L’Art de l’Aquarelle magazines.
Total prize money (excluding all merchandising): $25,000
This exhibition has four selection processes. The
first selection will be conducted by the members of the magazine’s
editing team. The following three stages will all be juried by a select
panel of five highly recognized international judges : Xidan Chen
(Artist & President of the International Watercolour Biennial,
Shanghai, China), Tony Hunt (Artist & Vice-President of the Royal
Watercolour Institute, England), Jim McFarlane (Artist & President
of the American Watercolour Society, USA), Janine Gallizia (Artist, Art
Director of The Art of Watercolour Magazine), Nicholas Simmons (Artist,
Notice that the top 20 artists will exhibit their two paintings in Europe's most prestigious event in Narbonne, South of France.
I received a very flattering interview request from an art student in Russia, with a number of unusual questions.
decided to send you a letter because I’m really fascinated by your works and I’m
dreaming one day to paint at least a bit as beautiful as you do. However at the
moment I’m just a student at the Institute of Design, Applied Art and Humanitarian Education in Saint-Petersburg also I’m the
participant of the editorial staff in our new student magazine, Про искусство. Now are working
on the first issue which will be dedicated to watercolour painting. The subject
of the article will be the technical aspects of watercolours which can be useful
both for novices and more experienced artists.
idea is to base the article on the review from the best and brightest
watercolour artist which I know and whose works I sincerely admire. So without
any hesitation I came up with your name in my head. To make the long story short
here comes the request part of the letter. Could you please briefly answer the
questions below basing on your experience and knowledge so we could quote your
expert opinion in the article.
you very much in advance for sharing your ideas and experience. I’m sure all
your recommendations will be a great help and inspiration for many young artists
regards from your passionate fan, Vasilisa Sokolova
1. What are your key principles for better more consistent
That's a difficult question, and perhaps depends on the kind of
artist one is, or the work one is doing. Certainly consistency will result from
doing the same type of paintings in the same technique/style/handling, but I
find this approach, after a while, rather boring. I'm more interested in art and
artists that surprise me. I particularly like work that imparts a sense of
danger, the feeling that the artist took a chance. This approach probably does not
serve the interests of consistency with respect to the overall quality of the
work. However, regular risk-taking is a type of consistency of its own.
2. What should the progression of exercises look like to
achieve the best results?
I don't know, I've never done exercises. I don't do value studies, or work out much of the painting in advance. Part of what I like about
watercolor is its elusiveness and tendency to change quickly; plans don't
always agree with that unpredictability, and rigidly sticking to a
plan can make the work suffer. With regard to values, color, etc., I see all of that
in my head. I know the painting will not be quite how I imagine it, but I have
learned that the unexpected detours and adaptations might well be better than
the original idea, anyway.
3. What are the biggest mistakes novices make when practicing
watercolours? What are the biggest misuses of time?
There are two that seem most devastating to me;
one is physical, the other, mental. In my opinion, most beginners paint much too
small. I think it is better to start large, as one learns to handle paint when
there is a lot of paint to be handled. On a large scale the
tolerances are greater, requiring less precision. More space allows the
physics of the water, paint, and paper to do more interesting things. One can
still learn about control and detail on a large scale. Another consideration is
the option of cropping; if you crop the best section out of a small
painting, you will likely have a tiny painting as a result. If you crop a large
work, you can still come up with a decent-sized painting. I've noticed that
starting small also builds fear in people of painting larger, a fear most never
overcome in watercolor. That is unfortunate, and unnecessary. I always wanted to
do paintings that could hang in big spaces with some impact.
Size is the easy problem to fix. The more difficult problem for
people in the beginning, and even for many experienced painters, is letting go
of preconceived ideas about how the work will progress and ultimately look. This
is especially true in watercolor, as the medium is liable to do something
unexpected. The saddest thing is when people cannot, or will not, let go
of those ideas at the expense of something that might be better. There is an
arrogance to this attitude that says "my idea is best." The
medium has always been a better artist than I am, always doing something I
wouldn't have thought of on my own. "Listening" to
the painting is crucial, and I have no aversion to changing direction. Instead of insisting on attaining what's in my head, I've come to accept what I get, and time after time that has been superior to the original intent. I think
watercolor painting is like playing jazz, it's very improvisational.
Over-planning a performance is not only the antithesis of improvisation, it is
the death of it.
4. Even at the pro level, what mistakes are most
Expanding on this subject, that would depend on what one considers a "mistake." I see all
kinds of work that I feel is a mistake before the paint ever hit the paper. Or
to put it another way, something not worth doing is not worth doing well. Apart
from the philosophical, actual technical or design mistakes usually announce
themselves. Then, I often see work by accomplished technicians who appear to be trying to see through the eyes of another artist. That's a serious
situation that cheats everyone involved -- the original, the perpetrator, and
5. What are your favorite instructional books or resources on
the subject? If people had to teach themselves what would you suggest they
There are so many good books and videos I hesitate to name any, as
I'll no doubt omit something important. I suppose the best resource for teaching
oneself is drawing on all of the things in one's personal experience. For me, a
lot of that came from music, film, literature, photography, and, of course,
studying the work of artists I admired.
6. If you were to train me for four weeks for a competition and
had a million euros on the line, what would the training look like? What if I
trained for eight weeks?
That's a fun question! Four weeks would involve
rolls of huge paper, lots of paint, large brushes, and putting you through the
entire range of emotions. Some people do their best work when at their at
emotional extremes, others do better on an even, objective keel. Eight weeks
would allow a lot more time to put the work away and take it out later to
analyze with fresh eyes.
7. What are the biggest mistakes and myths you see in
watercolour painting? What are the biggest wastes of time?
Learning too much about the materials is a mistake, in my opinion.
I've noticed the people who become preoccupied with all of that are often
not very good artists. I see an over-reliance on value studies and planning as largely a waste
of time. Worrying about what others will think is very bad.
The idea of "purist" watercolor has nothing whatsoever to do with art, so
obsession with that is obviously a mistake. There is the notion that painting
everyday has some inherent value, but I don't agree. I'm not saying it's bad,
but painting for the sake of painting does nothing for me.
8. Do you know somebody who is good in watercolour painting
despite being poorly gifted for it? Who is good at this who shouldn’t
The first question is strange. I'll just say that I see many
people who have great technical skill, but in my opinion are not artists in the
way that I think of artists; that is, exercising the imagination and creativity,
exploring uncharted (if only for themselves) territory. Related to
this might be the people who can draw but can't paint, and the reverse
- those who can paint but can't draw. A curious situation that raises questions
about their assumed interdependence. There are many analogies that can be
drawn there, such as the example of musicians who don't really know theory
and harmony, but produce great music anyway. I'm not really sure what the
second question means!
9. Who is the most unorthodox watercolourist or watercolour
teacher? Why? What do you think of them?
Oh my, what a difficult question. I have been described as
unorthodox, but then I see all kinds of other artists who do things that seem
quite unusual to me, things I would never think about painting. Regarding
teachers, I probably haven't been exposed to enough of them to be able to make
What makes you different from other artists? Who trained you or influenced
I was influenced early by many well-known
watercolorists, most notably Valfred Thelin and Barbara Nechis, and of course
people such as Sargent, Sorolla, Wyeth, Mauricio Lasansky, etc. My favorite
contemporary painter is Alex Kanevksy, but I also admire Lita Cabellut, Jose
Parla, and too many others to mention. If I'm different from other watermedia
artists, perhaps it is my music background and general aversion to authority
that somehow emerges in a way that has a certain vibe. And while I have
tremendous respect for many historically great artists of the past, I have no
special respect for tradition or the politics of art. Many artistic
institutions are weighed down by things that address artists collectively, and I
see art as purely an individual endeavor. I don't care much for team sports, I
prefer to see one person out there winning or losing on his or her own
Thank you very much for your time and most of all for sharing your ideas
and experience. Your letter was like a breath of fresh air for me and I'm sure
my fellow students would feel the similar effect :). In fact you've managed to
ruin a couple of ideas I sacredly believed in for years...
One my prized possessions, a Fender Stratocaster with about a million miles on it, has been sitting disassembled in a box for thirteen years. A new tailpiece, pickguard, wiring and electronics has brought her back to life, and I couldn't be more thrilled. A big thanks to Phil Jacoby of Philtone Guitars in Baltimore!
International field award winners, left to right: Anna Ivanova, Joseph Zbukvic,
Alexander Kryushyn, Ross Paterson, Dean Mitchell, Andrew Kish (not shown: Charles Reid)
I returned to Shanghai yet again in late November to join fellow judges, award winners, and guests for the 2012 Shanghai Zhujiajiao International Watercolour Biennial opening ceremonies. Besides the excitement of the event and seeing so many incredible watercolors on display, I got a chance to meet up with many friends, colleagues, and a few artists I have admired but not met until now: Anna Ivanova, Andrew Kish, Alexander Kryushyn, Dean Mitchell, Ross Paterson, Joseph Zbukvic, and of course Jo Jo and Xidan Chen, Janine Gallizia, Tony Hunt, Ong Kim Seng, Liu Yi, and too many others to name. Most all of the big names in watercolor are represented in the show, it's quite impressive.
We were all treated with a level of hospitality and respect that has become a hallmark of this exhibition. Paid flights, five-star hotel, lavish meals, and tours. There was a fantastic day in the city, another lunch in the revolving restaurant forty floors above Shanghai, Yu Gardens, and a night on the Bund. The opening ceremonies took place outside the Zhujiajiao Cultural Center where about half of the show is hung. The other half is at the Quanhua Watercolour Gallery. Buses shuttled visitors back and forth, though I unfortunately didn't have time to make it over to the gallery.
Congratulations to the sixteen award winners - eight from the international field (six pictured above) and eight from the Chinese field (see photo below). There is a fantastic catalog available from the Biennial website:
Shey-shey to the organizers for giving me the privilege to judge this unprecedented exhibition once again. Joseph Zbukvic said it perfectly in his speech on behalf of the artists when he spoke about the famous bridge of Zhujiajiao as a metaphor, illustrating the connection between East and West via the art of watercolor. We all hope to build on that, and bring the medium to new heights of awareness and critical acceptance.