How did the artists feel about participating in the 2018 Scottish Portrait Awards?

We asked the artists whose work was chosen for the 2018 SPA exhibitions what the organisers did well and how we could improve. Here are some of the responses.


What we did well

It was lovely to see such a range of work. This was reinforced when I looked around the BP Awards this year which left me a bit deflated.  I think the addition of the Glasgow venue was really a bonus. It was lovely to be able to see the whole exhibition, both photography and paintings together and to have the space to allow it.

For myself as a young contestant what I valued was entering a competition that allowed me the experience of being responsible for my art work in terms of framing, delivery, note write-up which is something I've not had to deal with yet in my practise. I valued that responsibility given to me. I also valued the opportunity to meet further artists, the award ceremony in Edinburgh gave me the chance to view other practising artists both in and out of education, it was inspiring to see all the wonderful artwork done by people not dis-similar to myself. To see their achievements, gave me food for thought. Also, social media is a wonderful tool, the up-to-date use of social media has boasted artworks and the website show cases this very well.

 The thing I value most about the SPA is that it isn’t elitist - it gives everyone a chance and is open to many different styles and mediums which leads to a wider variety of artists being recognised for their talents.I think it’s fantastic that Scotland has a competition that puts portraiture in the spotlight - there are far less portraiture exhibitions in general, so it’s a wonderful way to showcase different artists that might not have a platform otherwise. It’s also a great opportunity for new and upcoming artists

 All communication from the organizers was well done and clear and, in my experience more thorough than virtually every other open exhibition/competition I've entered (and there have been many).

Having the work in Glasgow i felt was such a success, i really appreciated the layout the evening was delightful and both venues had such wonderful members extremely interested in the works on show, i had many a delightful conversation.

 As a recent graduate and just at the beginning of my career, you have made it so uncomplicated to show my work. You can see the passion you have for the SPAs.

The advertising and social media efforts all looked great and the reply's on social media to the more negative comments were handled well. I thought the selection was strong and varied.

I felt like the exhibition was really well promoted and also the catalogue felt really high quality which is always nice! I was also impressed by the diversity of the work.

The venues are prestigious and offer good exposure, especially to those of us not in the central belt. And it is always nice to meet other artists. Social media coverage was also good, and the website is great. Lovely to be featured with links to my own sites and for that to be permanent.

 I valued the intimate feel of the exhibition, by having just a reasonably small select number of paintings. Also, I liked to be part of an exhibition which advocates Scottish portraiture exclusively and the amazing portraiture happening in Scotland and by Scottish artists.

The directory listing for artists with our individual pages is really fantastic.

I most value the awards for the opportunity to meet lovely people, getting recognition and just to get chosen was a great achievement for me. The exhibition was hung in a very professional manner in the beautiful rooms in Edinburgh and Glasgow. In Glasgow it was lovely to see the Art and the Photography sitting side by side.

How we could improve

Great that the SPAs are getting better known but we need ever more/better promotion including on TV and radio and in the Scottish press: Agreed we will try

Freedom for artists using social media: Agreed, in 2019 all artists selected for the SPAs will be free to announce and promote on social media as soon as they have been selected for the exhibition.

Could we have venues more open to public? It would be great to have the SPAs shown in places like the airport, train station, parliament building, shopping centre, Assembly rooms etc. We want to bring the SPAs to a wider audience. We are taking the 2019 exhibition to Kirkcudbright as well as Edinburgh and Glasgow and aim to be in the highlands with the 2020 exhibition. We would be worried about security for the fine art works in unguarded open spaces. We feel it is important to keep the entire exhibition together.

Even more diversity in the exhibition, more sculpture and ideally a prize for sculpture: Agreed this is a goal. We are looking for sponsors.

Clarity on why colour photography is included in the fine art exhibition: There is a statement on the website explaining this. Read it here

Ban previous exhibitors from re-entering the following year: We disagree. We are aiming for the best quality exhibition possible. The competition remains open to everyone over 16 years born, living or studying in Scotland, including the winners from the previous year.

Could there be more of a link up also with art schools? We are always interested to hear from art schools and how we can collaborate more closely.

 Could there be workshops with school children? We would love to but lack the capacity. Funding might be available, but we need a manager/volunteer to take this on including dealing with the proposal and implementing it.

Could there be a commission as part of the prizes? We had a portrait commission in year one and would love to have more. We will try through Facebook and our donors.

 It would be better to have an exhibition space big enough to have all the artists present during the award announcement: Currently our home in Edinburgh is at the Scottish Arts Club which does not have space for all the artists and a guest at the one time.

 I thought some of the artists used the artists evening for self-promotion rather than to talk about their work. Maybe more guidelines are needed. The content of the talk is up to the artist. Even an artist talking about marketing their work would be interesting so we will not be restricting anyone on the content of their talk. We want the diversity.

I wondered if the photographic exhibition should be separate. It’s a very different and no less valid, medium and I wondered if there was a feeling of it being less significant given that the paintings are in the main exhibition space at the club and the photographs in the dining room. We love the contrast between the fine art and black and white photography and think the photography looks brilliant in our elegant dining room. We also love seeing both exhibitions together in Glasgow and look forward to seeing all the work in varied locations.