Akash Bhatt, Blue Room, 2015, 32 x 24 inches, watercolor on paper

Akash Bhatt, Blue Room, 2015, 32 x 24 inches, watercolor on paper

Sunday Times Watercolour Competition

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

For 28 years the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition sponsored by Smith & Williamson LLP, has been showcasing innovative watercolor artwork and artists in the UK. This nationwide competition celebrates excellence in the field and is wildly popular with both Sunday Times readers and artists as well as gaining the attention of a worldwide audience. The competition aims to recognize and honor originality in the medium of watercolor as well as expose a larger public to the field. Each year in June hundreds on artists submit their work online with the hope of a top spot. The top three entries are determined and awarded prizes by a panel of judges while the top 100 artworks are exhibited in a traveling show. This year’s judges range in profession and include Sara Dudman, artist; Desmond Shawe-Taylor LVO, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures; Josh Spero, editor for Spear’s Magazine, art critic and author; Lucy Willis, watercolor artist; and Louis Wise, critic and writer for The Sunday Times. It is exciting to see what today’s artists are accomplishing with the traditional medium of watercolor and this competition allows for that.

For this competition the judges specifically look for work that makes the most inventive and extraordinary use of a water based medium. The competition draws landscapes, portraits, still lives, abstract work, and every other imaginable subject matter and style. The First Prize of £10,000 has been awarded this year to artist Akash Bhatt, for his painting Blue Room. This portrait is one in a series of drawings and paintings that the artist has completed of his mother. The painting depicts his mother in vivid detail dressed in a red-orange garment sitting in contrast to a void blue background. The artist stated about his work “My mum has always been a willing and patient sitter. Over time the practice has become about documenting her life and in turn has also become important as a record for myself. The nature of painting is fraught with uncertainties so in this aspect of my work I am very fortunate to have a model that I am familiar with. It allows me to focus on the possibilities of the painting with a sense of calm” (www.smith.williamson.co.uk). The judges selected this work for its demonstration of technical skill and inspiration. One of the judges Josh Spero, specifically commented on the hyperrealistic detail of the painting especially found in the fabric of Bhatt’s mothers clothing. 

Along with Bhatt’s first place painting, Michael Williams, was awarded the Second Prize for his landscape titled Land, Sea, Island, and Leo Davey was awarded third place for his cityscape Drip… Regents Canal. Many of the other participants in the competition also are able to get their paintings put on view in an exhibition of 90 selected works by 80 different artists. This exhibition which began in September in London continues to travel across the UK until January. All of the work found in the show can also be seen online at sundaytimeswatercolour.org and are available for purchase. Looking at this work is an inspiring glimpse into the world of contemporary watercolor painting. While the contest is only open to UK residents, it is forward thinking competitions such as this can elevate and advance the watercolor medium around the world and even here in Western New York.

—Anna Leone


 Anna Leone is a graduate student at SUNY Buffalo State in the Art Education Department.  She also teachers in in the Buffalo Public Schools.  Anna is in the process of finishing her Masters degree in Art Education.