Disappointing news from the Royal Institute for Painters in Watercolour

Well, I’m sure that the title of this post alone is a giveaway to this week’s main news item.

I received notification last Friday that all four of the paintings that I submitted to the Royal Institute for Painters in Watercolour had been rejected.

Needless to say, this came as a great disappointment, not least because I felt that the paintings I submitted were all better and more accomplished than the painting that I had selected last year.

It’s hard not to take this to heart, even though I’m well versed in these rejections (of which I’ve had far more than I have successes!) and I’ve had to have more than a few stern words with myself that this news doesn’t define me.

My disappointment has been tempered by seeing some people that I follow and whose work I greatly admire that have had their works selected for the exhibition – which is wonderful news and my heartiest congratulations go out to them.

I look forward to visiting the exhibition, which will be on at the Mall Galleries in London from 28th March to 13th April. In the past, on seeing the exhibition first hand, I have usually been able to recognise that my work hasn’t been quite as strong or accomplished as the vast majority of selected works, but year on year the gap has always been closing. It will be interesting to see what my assessment is this year, and I expect that by the time it comes to enter next year’s exhibition, I’ll have recovered sufficiently to enter some new paintings for the selection panel’s scrutiny.

The best medicine

I took great comfort in spending some time with the family and, got very lucky with the weather when we took a walk out in the countryside with the hound to a nearby beauty spot called Devil’s Dyke.

Here’s an A4 sketch I did from our visit:

A4 Sketch from the bottom of Devil’s Dyke

And here’s the painting close up:

And, to prove I exist, here’s me on location!

The legend of Devil’s Dyke

Devil’s Dyke is a 100m deep v shaped trench in South Downs, just outside Brighton. It’s a National Trust beauty spot and from the top there are commanding views across Sussex and the South East of England. This view, however, is from the bottom of the dyke.

Sussex was the last of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to embrace the then-new faith of Christianity. So enraged was the Devil at losing his last foothold in England, he vowed revenge upon its inhabitants by digging a trench through the South Downs to the nearby sea, so that it would flood inland and drown the inhabitants of the Sussex Weald.

Upon hearing of this plan, the hermit, Cuthman of Steyning placed a bet with the Devil. If the Devil could complete the trench in a single night, he could have Cuthman’s soul. If he failed, however, he had to leave the people of Sussex alone for good. The Devil went all in on the wager and began work that night, starting at Poynings and working his way southwards towards the sea. The nearby hills of Chanctonbury Ring, Cissbury Ring, Mount Caburn and Firle Beacon are said to be formed from the mounds of earth thrown up from the Devil’s digging.

Cuthman of Steyning, however, had a Baldrickly-esque cunning plan! Shortly after midnight, he lit a candle in his window while also startling a cockerel so it started crowing in alarm. The light and sound of the cock crowing was enough to convince the Devil that dawn was nigh and that he had lost his bet, leading him to flea in digrace leaving behind his unfinished trench, known ever since as Devil’s Dyke.

The light was amazing and I got a few reference photos that I’m looking forward to having a play around with. After the disappointing news from the RI, it was good to put brush to paper again and to remind myself that the reason I paint is for me, and not for the validation of others – though this is obviously nice to have too when it happens!

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