The affordable way to buy art

© Rebecca Harley

© Rebecca Harley

Interested in buying a piece of art but don’t have the cash right away? With the Own Art initiative, you can spread the cost of your purchase over ten months with an interest free loan.

If you love art but thought you couldn’t afford to take home a piece of your own, think again! It’s now easier than ever to indulge your passion for beautifully crafted artwork with Own Art.

You can walk away with your purchase right away, but pay for it over time without incurring any borrowing fees. This applies to any pieces priced between £100 and £2,500 for sale at the RWA.

“This is a fantastic scheme which makes art accessible for many more people, so we hope that lots of our visitors will take advantage of it and support the brilliant creative artists we work with,” said Alison Bevan, Director of the RWA.

For more information about Own Art, please email or ask in the gallery.

Own Art is an Arts Council England initiative operated by Creative United, a registered trademark of Creative Sector Services CIC a Community Interest Company, in partnership with Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and our credit provider Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance.

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We’re on the Front Page!

The Linguist Magazine coverKarine Leroux, one of our long-time volunteers, is a professional translator who specialises primarily in art. She has recently written an article on translating art texts for the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ magazine, The Linguist, in which she explains what it takes to be an art translator and how volunteering at the RWA forms part of her CPD activities. A couple of photos of our 162nd Annual Open Exhibition illustrate the article and, as it is the cover story, the RWA gallery is also on the front page.

To read Karine’s article – and find out what she’s secretly up to while on duty – go to page 6 of the online version of the magazine.

If you wish to get in touch with Karine regarding the article, you will find her contact details on her website.

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Twilight Tuesdays are back!

Twilight Tuesdays at the RWA presents:


Fun, informal art-making workshops – an alternative to the step class and the treadmill!

This Is Me…with Jenny BlackwoodMan
Let’s Make Art
with Alice Hendy & Karen Davies
Drawing activities with Sam Church
Painting with Sophie Rae
Moments of Joy…with Jenny Blackwood
Printmaking with Sophie Rae
Let’s Make Art
with Alice Hendy & Karen Davies


A series of 7 lectures by David Cuthbert exploring some of the art-world’s most sensational episodes.

THEFT & FORGERY – Including the theft of themona thief
Mona Lisa
VANDALISM – Including the Chapman Brothers
and the Goya prints
SEX – Including Eric Gill and the Prospero
& Ariel sculpture
VIOLENCE – Including Viennese Actionism
BLASPHEMY – Including The Black Christ of
Ronald Harrison
TABLOID HYSTERIA! – Including The Armory
Show 1913; Carl Andre and ‘the bricks’
REPRESSION – Including Entartete Kunst 1937;
Alfred Munnings and ‘This So-called Modern Art’
In association with Tangent Books


6:30PM – 8:30PM
Creative Gym and 20th Century Scandals tickets are £10 per session or £65 for all 7 sessions
For further information and to book please pop into the RWA, phone us on (0117) 973 5129 or visit the

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Meet the new Academicians – Laurie Steen

We have just closed submissions on the Annual Open Exhibition for another year and are doing the final counts as to how many entries in . Every year we also receive submissions from Academician Candidates, this year we have 10 hoping to be elected by the Academicians. We chat to Laurie Steen who was one of 3 new Academicians elected during the last annual Open Exhibition about her journey to becoming an Academician.

Tell us a bit about your artistic background and work?

Growing up in the foothills of Alberta in Canada, I started doing nature drawings making shadow studies in the garden in my early teens.  However, after studying fine arts and design,  I started my professional artistic background being an interior architect and designer working commercially and leading creative teams. Along side this I also worked in the studio and was soon represented in Canada’s by Newzones Gallery.  So I suppose I have always made my living by being creative and drawing… I once heard a famous artist talk about her process and she happened to say that technically she thought of herself as a draftswoman and I liked that. I have been making architectural drawings and renderings and visual art professionally for 25 years.   Drawing and scale are so important to me.

I started by working predominantly with the figure with a series called ’the poetry of us’ and portraits and then slowly brought nature into my work with ’the memory of green’.  Since moving to England though the landscape has taken precedence, and although I have never considered myself a landscape artist,  increasingly it is the environment around me that is my constant source of inspiration and moves me to make work.  In Canada, as well as working with the portrait, I was moved to document the fleeting bit of sunny, summer weather and capture the contours of the trembling aspen and apple trees. Now living in lush Devon with all aspects of the landscape pulling me everyday, my work has become much more layered and time consuming.  Silence and light has entered the work, much like it would a portrait.  I tend to work seasonally, in the winter months I am drawn to working with dark graphite and oils working with the architectural lines of the deciduous English trees;  dark verticals in a horizontal landscape.  In the warmer months, when light and colour flood the studio, I am often working outside on large drawings on mylar or observation drawings on paper following in between fleeting moments, or stills in the landscape that surrounds me daily.

How did you select the pieces that you put forward as your Academician Candidate works?

It was really difficult choosing 4 pieces for my candidate work.   I felt it very important to show a variety of the work if possible and given the timing of it all, a couple of new pieces I wanted to enter were either a commission piece or had been promised for an exhibition -but luckily it all worked out!   I basically tried to choose the best drawings I had, whether they were in a paper format or in oil on panel.  I tend to call all of my work drawings even though most of them are drawings combined with oil and mixed media paintings, mostly because each piece begins and ends with drawing.   I also tried to represent the diverse range of sizes (scale) that I work in.   My oil paintings take much time to dry with multiple layers so I didn’t want to rush making new work, except for the large mylar drawing I did specifically.  I think it is also important to put forth pieces that photograph well and that you are 110% happy with.

What’s the biggest misconception about being an artist?

Mmmmm,  misconceptions. Well this isn’t necessarily a misconception but I find it difficult to answer the question ‘what does your work look like?’  It is impossible to describe ones work without a visual or even better, a the visceral work itself in real life.  I think a misconception might be in how a full time artist spends their day!  There are 2 types of doing – in that half of your time is spent doing admin or answering emails and taking images of your work, and framing and ordering materials and cleaning and just trying to understand and further define ones own working processes.  It is much much more than just working peacefully in the studio everyday.  Although when one is making the work it makes up for everything else!

Unlike many other professional careers, people also wonder what a day in the studio might be like for an artist – basically why I am unable to just leave my work when I get home… being a full time artist requires much self motivation, commitment and integrity. There isn’t an employer to tell you when to get to work, how to begin, what to draw or paint, on what to draw or paint, and then what tools to draw your subject with, or how your are going to draw it,,, what the size of your composition will be, when it is time for lunch or when to say that’s enough for the day, let alone to say whether it’s good or finished!  This is where an artists integrity answers all of the above.  The pieces that work the best are partially worked through in my mind when I am at home happy with my family and friends.

What was the last art exhibition you saw?

Other than all the RWA’s shows this year! I saw Anselm Keifer at the RA.  Like most large exhibitions all of the newest and most powerful work was at the end and was not represented in any cards or posters.  I didn’t buy the catalogue as my favourite pieces looked completely different in print, but I went back in to sit in front of them again for awhile and would give anything to have one of his pieces at home!  The spring shows at Hauser and Wirth Somerset were wonderful:  large water paintings by of the sea by Zhang Enli, and a surprise Exhibition of famous drawings by architects and their working models,,, some mentors like Louis Kahn, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Liebius woods.

Hint: Two of the greatest artists to have worked and still be working in the last century (which are two of my favourites artists)  are opening in London this Autumn.  Frank Aurbach at Tate Britain and Giacometti at NPG.  I am still in awe of the fact that London is just a 2 1/2 hour train journey away!

What does it mean to you to be elected as an Academician?

I think it adds definition to the meaning of home for me.  I moved from Canada with my family 7 years ago and subsequently I have had my work in the Autumn exhibition every year since arriving.  I had recently been exploring the notion of belonging and longing in my work, when ones heart is in two places; as part of a traveling exhibition with artists from Canada, and then I went to show more at the RWA.  It has come to be a part of my life here as well as a home for outstanding exhibitions and artists in the south west.  Not all countries have the history and establishment to support regional galleries like the 5 regional galleries in the UK, and it should be celebrated and supported. I look forward to meeting and working with artists of all mediums, as I have done in Canada.  Working on multi media projects allow you to push the envelopes of each others creativity and of your own working processes.  I am sure many will agree that inspiration quite often comes from outside ones own practice and it is important that the RWA promote and nurture artists working in all disciplines.  I do feel a bit of pride now walking up through the stone and gold facade!

What are you working on currently?

Currently I have many larger conte drawings on Mylar on the go as well and I am getting some hand primed panels ready to continue my ‘home’ series with oil mediums.  ‘home drawings’   is a new series in which I am recording what I think are simply beautiful stills that occur around me in my home environment.  Experiencing a scene at many points throughout the day allows memory to take over once the pieces have started from life.  They feel incredibly personal and are worked on at different times of the day.  It is never a question of what to do, more so there just isn’t enough time!  I always feel as though I am at the beginning of my practice!


Liminal view 19.01.2009. Laurie Steen 15 x 90 cm graphite and oil on gessoed wooden panel © Laurie Steen


landstill 06-12 70 x 100 cm graphite and oil on gessoed wooden panel © Laurie Steen


view 11-2008 Butterleigh. Drawing 01-10 (unframed) 30 x 40cm. graphite and oil on gessoed wooden panel © Laurie Steen


Landstill 22-11 20 x 20 cm. graphite and oil on gessoed wooden panel © Laurie Steen


post vitam. drawing 01-13 30 x 30cm. graphite and oil on hand gessoed wooden panel © Laurie Steen


autumn is,,, drawing 05-13 50 x 70cm. graphite and oil on gessoed wooden panel © Laurie Steen


observation drawing 03-06 30 x 40” graphite and oil on canvas © Laurie Steen


Untitled I Drawing 01-06 30 x 36” graphite and oil on oil primed canvas © Laurie Steen


Michaela study II, 08-11 21 x 21” graphite and oil on gessoed wooden panel © Laurie Steen


spring sonnet 11-14 40 x 40cm. graphite and oil on hand gessoed wooden panel © Laurie Steen


Landstill Drawing, 10-15 conte and coloured pencil on mylar © Laurie Steen

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We chat to Beth Waters the artist behind RWA’s Shaun in the City REX

What’s your first memory of art?

Well, I don’t remember this at all but I am always told the story of my first encounter with art. There are a lot of artists in my family, but at an age when I should have been starting to scribble I couldn’t even hold a pencil, so my Mum thought I wasn’t going to be artistic. But then my Grandma, who is a fantastic painter, got out a big sheet of paper and lots of coloured pens and pencils and just started drawing. I was fascinated and joined in, and that was that!

What was your big breakthrough? Career high so far?

Undoubtedly being selected to paint Rex for the Shaun in the City trail – I doubt any of my work will get quite that exposure ever again! It’s a fantastic project, it’s for such a good cause and it’s so accessible, it gets people and families of all ages and all backgrounds out and about enjoying art. I’ve loved just standing outside the RWA and watching people with Rex, I find it so rewarding that these 120 giant painted sheep sculptures seem to make people happy, because in my mind the best thing art can do is make people smile.

Beth with Rex on Rex's ShaunDay

Beth with Rex on Rex’s ShaunDay

Rex Front

Which artists do you turn to for inspiration?

I’m inspired by stories as much as anything else, and my work always has a strong narrative element, or at least a feeling that there must be a story behind it. I studied English Literature and German at University, and in particular I loved fairy tales (the original Grimm or Anderson ones, not the modern sanitised ones!) and Edwardian children’s literature such as Alice in Wonderland and the Wind in the Willows. So actually a lot of the artists I admire are illustrators – Arthur Rackham, Quentin Blake, Shirley Hughes, Alexis Deacon… When I did work experience in theatre set painting in Berlin for a month, I was told to reproduce a piece of work on a large scale as practise. Where most students chose old masters, I took a John Tenniel Illustration from Alice in Wonderland, so now I have a giant 2m backdrop with the scene from the Mock Turtle’s story taking up an entire wall in my bedroom. In September I am starting an MA in children’s book illustration at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge under Martin Salisbury, so I will really be able to combine my love of art with my love of stories. It will also be the first time I have had any real art tuition since A-level – so far I’ve been completely self-taught.


Mock Turtle, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, John Tienniel

Elspeth001 (1)

Beth will start her course in Children’s Illustration at Anglia Ruskin this September

What is your studio like?

My studio is our spare bedroom in our tiny attic flat. It’s got lovely big windows and as we’re quite high up you can see for a long way which is really nice. At the moment it’s a complete tip, we’ve had so many visitors coming to see Rex that it’s been mainly used as a guest room and there’s not much room to work in there. It can also get a bit lonely – one day I’d love to get studio space somewhere with lots of other artists around, so I’d have people there to inspire me and share hour-long tea breaks with.

Favourite materials?

I like good old fashioned pencil and paper best. I prefer oil to acrylic as I find acrylic dries too quickly, and I’ve been gradually trying to teach myself to use watercolour and gouache which has been a big challenge! Recently I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with lino printing, I can’t get enough of it.

Beth Water's is currently experimenting with Linoprinting

Beth is currently experimenting with Linoprinting

Do you still find art difficult, and if so why?

Yes, very. My partner Erik is doing a PhD in glaciology at the University in Bristol, something which you would think would have little in common with art, and yet we encounter all the same difficulties – struggling to motivate yourself, managing your own time, learning how to network, and always thinking that everyone else is somehow better than you!

Apart from art, what’s your biggest talent?

I’d say my other biggest passion is music. I play the cello with the Bristol Metropolitan Orchestra, which I love. There’s nothing quite like being right in the middle of a full size symphony orchestra playing full tilt, and you discover so much good music.

You can find out more about Beth and see more of her work here 

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Why Be A Volunteer Steward? A Guest Blog by volunteer Thea Bailey

What was it that drew me in?  I’d been into this building so often, but suddenly that day early in 2015 I sensed change, everything seemed to have a “new energy” about it and the RWA were looking for Volunteers.

The RWA Building

The RWA Building

How strange after all these years, visiting interesting exhibitions that I had never been tempted to even think of being a Volunteer!  But now the time felt right, and with more free time, and badly needing to find my way back to the creative process and embrace art into my life once more, it seemed ideal.  I’d grown up surrounded by items of art and creativity with a culture of regularly visiting art exhibitions, and discussing all manner of related subjects, so it’s in my blood.  I also valuedthe art of quietly looking.  Embracing the joy and absorption of what is before me,  and by looking, appreciating what it has to offer me in return.  I feel totally at ease around art and all associated issues, and I also enjoy sharing, or offering advice. So to be at ease and comfortable to approach a stranger within such a context all seemed and ideal combination mix to step into the role.

However for me one of the great joys in Stewarding has been the delight in learning, making discoveries, and appreciating anew – through the diversity of exhibitions –  that, the more one looks, the more one sees.  It is a revelation at times which gives me a great smile of pleasure, as well as renewed awareness of the picture or object in question.  Early in 2015  I discovered through “Arboretum”about trees, a fascination which I’ve always had, I’ve even sought to try and draw them…  But like clouds, they are so hard to truly capture!  So each time I was on duty I began to grow in awe and respect of the artists’ whose works I was looking at.  Remarkable and complex to capture their depth and form on a flat medium, ‘oh my goodness’, such outstanding work in pencil, oils, pastels, charcoal was there before me to study.  As Stewards, we usually do one half day at a time, and sometimes more than once a week, thus the opportunity to really get to know the works is substantial.  A constant, fascinating source of rewarded inspiration.


Aboretum Exhibition held at the RWA in January and February 2015

And then there were those supremely executed photographs of nature, capturing supremely the UK’s natural world.  One can never tire of seeing such incredible images, and how light has been caught; or marvel at the patience and knowledge required to take such photography.  Giving us all a chance to see what we so rarely do, in fleeting and hidden worlds.  Many who had never really cared for photographs – as an art medium – were surprised and dazzled, as I tempted them, by these gloriously captured images. A revelation, this craft of photography and its capacity to arrest a moment of nature’s pure magnificent art.

When the exhibitions changed to “Drawn” and “Drawing On…” I found myself each week looking at the drawings of  some of the greats of early 20th Century art and sculpture, Dame Elizabeth Frink, Dame Barbara Hepworth, Sir Terry Frost RA and Bridget Riley RA as part of the Ingram Collection. I felt so privileged and informed, and reunited with images I had grown up with. It was here too, that I gained another lesson. I was able to perceive by looking the development of styles, that have come to inform styles of today. The one following on from the other.  I observed many and those who said, enjoying the present day art, in “Drawn”, yet found they weren’t really touched by these older works. I often felt sad that many just seemed to “pass through” without realising what it was they were so quickly skimming.  But then as an observer of visitors, I often feel an inner concern that they haven’t found something to ignite a spark to stand and stare!  I just don’t think younger audiences quite knew what it was that was on offer.  For me, the apparent simplicity of Derrick Greaves’s portrait of Margaret Greaves, with so few lines, gave me such a sense of stillness and presence, or the simple lines with a little colour, of Sir Terry Frost’s Fishing Boat, allowed me to sit in those galleries and just enjoy this rare opportunity with a collection of art works.  As a Steward it is therefore, never a problem to be there week after week, the art is constantly informing; but should there be a real lull in visitors there’s a chance to have a quick meditate or read the corresponding catalogue.  One day I had a mini revelation about how to deal with water.  I had been observing a wonderful drawing in the Drawn Exhibition, of a riverbank scene that I felt I knew, and suddenly as I looked, I understood how to deal with reflections in water, allow space to create that magic on a page.  It was glorious to find that insight.

Drawn Exhibition March - June 2015

Drawn Exhibition at the RWA March – June 2015

Then of course we have wonderful private view evenings with one and all, spruced and sparkling.  One such was the grand secret postcard sale, raising money for the RWA – a huge success – and I was able to gain a handle on the idea of telephone bidding, and to feel the buzz of the desire to acquire, a piece of art.  Such delights and mixes, add to the flavour of being a volunteer.  And then of course, there are the delightful conversations.  It’s always such a rich part of the job, those unexpected and fruitful conversations one has with so many fascinating visitors to the gallery.  Sharing in the delight of a certain work, or hearing about how far they have come, just to see this or that exhibition, and then discovering they too are an artist, or they are the artist exhibiting. It’s a natural part of the job which is so nourishing adding to the richness of being there.

The bustling excitement of the Secret Postcard Auction

The bustling excitement of the Secret Postcard Auction

Now in the present exhibitions, (my July Blog), I find that once again it is this constancy of having the opportunity to continue to look at the pictures before me, which teaches me so much, and when showing one of our young work-placement students around he also discovered new words and images about a way of rich English country life long gone.  I have come to admire and respect the Newlyn School painters, and the way they captured the light, and changing essences of Cornwall.  In particular a large canvas by Stanhope Forbes RA, capturing horses drinking at dusk in a clearing in the woods. Truly it’s a constant joy, and it was also a joy and revelation for a young school girl, about 8 years old, she didn’t understand that yes, it was a picture, but it was “a painting too!”  As I wander around the different galleries, I constantly feel I am nourished, able to perceive anew.  Regularly I just want to stop there and then, get out some paints and begin.  Isn’t that what art can do, inspire us and feed us on so many levels. I suspect that’s why we become volunteers.

Harold Harvey (1874 – 1941) ‘The Young Ploughman’, Oil on canvas, Bowerman Charitable Trust

Work from the Newlyn School Harold Harvey (1874 – 1941) ‘The Young Ploughman’, Oil on canvas, Bowerman Charitable Trust

There is another side to Stewarding.  One is both a potential companion in spirit to the visitor, and a potential annoyance!  We are after all there to help protect works of art.  Thus we do at times need to request that people remove their backpacks; ask them to refrain from taking photographs in certain exhibitions, and ensure they don’t get too close to a piece.  An especial dread is watching that pencil going ever closer, pointing out a subject, or a finger closing in on a work without glass! Even maybe, we deduce that a ticket hasn’t been bought, someone’s entered via a closed side door: “Ah, eh No”, could they then please buy one… and was that food and drink in hand; or a hand stretched out to touch that which asks: “Please Do Not”. Of course authority showing up produces many a diverse response, but I (we) are just caring for items, doing our job.  It’s an art and a balance, wondering when and how to step in, what level of dialogue will someone receive or not; and are they taking a photograph, or just texting, making notes; searching on the Internet, with that remarkable piece of modern 21st century technology?  And sometimes alone with those galleries, well the essential is naturally to honour my brief, while keeping an eye on that small person’s exuberance. Do they realise, items are fragile!       But,what a privilege and nourishing pleasure to be helping to take care of so much splendid creativity, and the diversity of real education that takes place with say a school group. Watching keen young eyes and senses, marvel and be amazed; or older ones so keen to first take the photo and then to look.  Ah how often I would so love to guide them to enjoy really looking without a lens in the first instance, and then to capture those images for sharing and projects later.  However, for many it is their first time in an art gallery, that is special, so it’s important for them to have a sense of wonder, and one hopes perhaps, to be inspired for later.  We tread a fine balance, but it is for this independently run Gallery that we offer this crucial service, enabling the RWA to continue to offer the people of Bristol, throughout the year, some outstanding art works.  I always feel happy on the days when I’ll be on duty as a Volunteer Steward.  I was even asked to try out the Sheep trail activity sheet we currently offer children in conjunction with Shaun The Sheep trail.   Now that was a new challenge, Stewarding while endeavouring to copy and make changes to a vast Laura Knight picture!

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Call for Submissions for the RWA 163 Annual Open Exhibition – the region’s largest open submission exhibition.

Originally posted on RWA: Behind the scenes:

Online Submission closes 19 August 2015

The Royal West of England Academy in Bristol invites artists to submit their work for consideration to its most popular show on the exhibition calendar.

Now in its 163rd year, the Annual Open Exhibition provides an opportunity for regional, national and international artists to exhibit their work alongside other renowned names in British art, such as last year’s invited artist Sir Peter Blake RWA (Hon).

Submissions are welcome from painters, sculptors, architects, photographers and printmakers, alongside a host of other media represented in this eclectic exhibition. Entries are encouraged from all ages, including students and emerging artists.

Janette Kerr President of the RWA said ‘We are looking for pieces that sing and talk to us – that amuse, provoke and excite, that have a poetry and freshness about them, that have a visual impact which makes a work stand out – as well…

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