Foolishly, I entered four watercolours in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition this year.  This was especially foolish because I entered last year too and came to grief.  So, I should have known better. It’s called learning from experience; something I am supposed to know about (interesting how often there is a gap between knowing and doing).

Some weeks ago, The Sunday Times sent me a call for entries leaflet with all the details of prizes and how to enter (and, on the cover, some watercolours that looked just like mine).  I know I’m not in the prize league so that is not the attraction.  What stirs me into action is the bit that says, ‘Approximately 100 works will be exhibited at the Mall Galleries from 12 – 18 September’.  I often go to exhibitions at the Mall Galleries and wonder why at least half the exhibits are there when my paintings are obviously so much better!  Failing to appreciate the merits of other people’s paintings is a common occurrence for me.  It happens to me when I visit the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy where my comprehension collapses.  This year I stood in front of a large painting of blue and white daubs with some twigs stuck on with masking tape and simply got the giggles. The painting in question was priced at over £25,000 (not sold).  I desperately wanted someone from the selection committee to help me understand what I was missing, but none of them were on hand.  This week the incredibly famous artist Cy Twombly died and I have read many appreciations of his work.  But the rapture passes me by, stuck seeing only irritating, crude scribblings.  

I fully accept that the fault lies with me – the incomprehension is all mine – which is why I need help.  I also accept that my paintings are, well, a bit chocolate boxy.  I make the mistake of painting things that look like the actual things.  I love representational art, John Piper’s watercolours for example (even though they are a bit slapdash by my standards), and particularly Bob Rudd’s watercolours ( and those of David Prentice. But I’ve got a suspicion that this is me being a bit low brow, like insisting that poems should rhyme, that soup should be hot and that I should be able to hear the lyrics in songs as clearly as I can hear Leonard Cohen.

So, my downfall was to imagine having a watercolour in an exhibition at the Mall Galleries.  I realised the hope was slender since The Sunday Times Competition is open to all – professionals, amateurs, the lot.  But, undaunted, I painted four watercolours as best I could, spent £450 getting them professionally mounted and framed, dared to show them to friends (and got encouraging noises – that’s what friends are for, pity they aren’t on the selection panel), filled in all the forms, took the paintings to London on the handing-in day – oh, and paid an entry fee of £60.

Then, on the appointed day, I logged on to the Parker Harris website to see if any of my paintings had been accepted; my name wasn’t on the list. 

Of course, all this is self inflicted – I chose to enter my paintings into the competition. Today, in the rain, I collected my four paintings.  They still look good to me, but each one has a tell-tale chalk cross on the back.  

Never again; I’ve struck exhibiting at the Mall Galleries off my wish list.

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